WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are warned that this website contain images, voices and names of people who have passed away.

Kukula McDonald is a Aboriginal artist who is renowned for her depiction of the Red-tailed Black Cockatoos. A Luritja woman from Papunya she paints for Bindi Mwerre Anthurre Artists Studio in Alice Springs, Northern Territory.

Kukula predominantly paints Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, big mobs or a lone individual perched on a tree or soaring in the sky. She knows where to find “big mobs” of them in the Central and Western Deserts. Kukula has become known for these Red-tailed Black Cockatoos which she incorporates into the landscape of Papunya, often painting ‘Uttumpatu‘ the rocky outcrops that form ridge lines or hills beside the community of Papunya. These landscape formations hold cultural significance for the people of Papunya.

Source: Gallery Gondwana

Her paintings will depict the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, from the lone cockatoo perched on a branch to the big mobs of cockatoos flying across the landscape. Each painting and each bird with a unique insight into a bird that has enormous importance to the artist.

Source: Gallery Gondwana, Alice Springs, NT

If you look closely at some of the cockatoos in the paintings, some will have own unique individual depictions, from one staring back at the viewer with one eye, to others roosting in the tree tops, whilst another may be in a nest, others drinking and making noises around a water hole, all the while mobs may be flying overhead.

Kukula’s keen observation, is evident in her individual depictions of the cockatoos. The varied colouration from the barred tail (that indicates a female bird) to the solid red on the tail (that indicates the male bird). In some paintings Kukula has used yellow-orange colours on the body, up to the head, neck and wings, this also depicts the female bird.

Source: Gallery Gondwana, Alice Springs, NT

In some of Kukula’s later works there is an occasional Yellow Tailed Cockatoo, a Galah or Ring Neck Parrot that has made its way in to Kukula’s landscapes. These newer paintings reflect the development and an insight into Kukula, both as an artist and on a personal level.

In the following work, Kukula has painted both male and female Red-tailed Cockatoos and included a Yellow-tailed Cockatoo and a White-tailed Cockatoo (also known as Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoo and Baudin’s Black-Cockatoo).

Source: Gallery Gondwana, Alice Springs, NT

For those who have met the artist, one moment she may be quiet, another moment a beaming smile lights up her face. She is often seen wearing headgear, from the bomber style hats with ear flaps to other sorts, perhaps unknowingly influenced by the erectile crest on the cockatoo.

Kukula’s artwork are seen in the annual Desert Mob exhibitions and also sometimes available from other local and interstate galleries.

Check out some Birds section on the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo.