Four First Nations sisters from Cungelella Art sitting on a rock face

Sister Act:
Cungelella Art

Creating a legacy through art

Meet the Kalkadoon women, mothers, sisters, partners, artists and entrepreneurs behind Cungelella Art

In the heart of Kalkadoon Country (in the mining town of Mt Isa, western Qld) four sisters can be found in a backyard shed-turned-studio sipping tea, chatting, laughing and creating artworks that reflect the unique landscape of their homeland.

Over the years it has become a familiar scene and one that has inevitably brought them even closer together, painting and sharing the textures, colours, history and culture from this sun-scorched part of the world.

Glenda McCulloch, the second youngest sister, started the contemporary Aboriginal art venture Cungelella Art in 2019 while on maternity leave. Stepping away from a job at the mines, Glenda decided she wanted to stay at home more with her kids, but still be able to help support the family financially.

Glenda from Cungelella Art holding up one of her paintings of her homelands

“Painting really started out as a hobby – something to keep my creative side active while at home,” Glenda says.

“Back then, in our hometown of Mt Isa, there was not one place in town that you could purchase Aboriginal art, so I put a few pieces into our local coffee shops and also started an Instagram page.”

She admits it was a slow start, but through persistence, encouragement and an ever-growing Instagram community, things started to change.

“I couldn’t have imagined it getting this big!” Glenda says. “I knew there was a niche in the market for my style and my art, but it really started out as a hobby and as the demand grew a business evolved, which now involves three of my sisters.

The four sisters of Cungelella Art walking along a road with the sun setting in the background

“Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. We do everything together and we’re so grateful that we can also support ourselves and our family while hanging out,” she explains.

“We’re humbled by the support from all our customers and their feedback. We’ve sent pieces all over Australia. It’s so exciting to see Australians taking an interest in Aboriginal art and we’ve also had the pleasure of selling our pieces internationally.”

Cungelella Art collaborated with Twoobs on a range of sandals depicting their artwork

Glenda, 31, is joined by older siblings Juanita Doyle (36) and Dale Bruce (33), and also younger sister Cheryl Perez (30). Collectively they are Cungelella Art.

Named after their great-great-grandmother (and pronounced Cun-gel-lul-lah), it underscores just how much family means to all of them…

To continue reading our cover story on Cungelella Art, please visit the Everly Mag Shop where you’ll find Issue 3 (available in print or digital).

(Photos courtesy of Renee Johnstone from Vida Images and Sarah Conlan. Plus, if you’d like to see more of Cungelella Art, visit their website or follow them on Instagram.)

Leave a Reply