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Motorbike Paddy Exhibition
21st July 2023 - 20th August 2023
Mbantua Gallery Alice Springs

Motorbike Paddy

OLDEN DAYS STORY

I think that the time is right to exhibit and make available some of the paintings that 90 year old Motorbike Paddy Ngale has been painting for us over the past 5 years.
I have purposely not shown these works before because my work with him was an experiment, and I thought it important to try and maintain the 'purity' of his work as long as I could - especially after seeing his first non-traditional piece, which you will see below.
He was happy, he could relax and simply enjoy his painting without external pressure. Although I have seen a couple of his paintings outside of our walls, I haven't seen a lot.
How did it all come about?
For many, many years I, or various staff members, used to call into Camel Camp Out Station in Utopia where Paddy lived with his wife Kathleen Ngale. Glady, Ally and Polly Ngale, and other artists also lived there, and we regularly visited with canvas and paints, and collected finished paintings.
Motorbike Paddy would every now again wander over to our vehicle with a small carving or artefact and ask me to buy it from him. He never asked me for canvas, and to be quite honest it didn't enter my mind to offer any to him in those days primarily because we were so very busy with others.
Right: Motorbike Paddy in his home camp - Camel Camp - bringing over some of his canvas for me to look at.
It was probably in early 2017, I found more time to actually converse with Paddy. Ally had passed away way back in 2007, we lost Glady in 2016, and Polly was often absent visiting or living elsewhere. His wife Kathleen was often unwell in her later years, and unfortunately developed a form of dementia. I found Paddy to have a lovely personality, a cheeky giggle and was an interesting man, so I offered him some canvas and he was keen to do some paintings. In his broken English he asked me what I wanted him to paint. And I asked him to just do his Dreamtime stories, and over the ensuring months he did quite a few of these in varying styles.

MB052353

Ahakeye (Bush Plum) Dreaming

30 x 30cm

MB052253

Ahakeye (Bush Plum) Dreaming

30 x 30cm

MB052438

Ahakeye (Bush Plum) Dreaming

30 x 30cm

For quite some time I had been thinking and wondering if I could get Paddy, rather than painting Dreamtime designs, to paint some of his personal memories - 'Olden Time Stories' was the terminology I had in mind. I knew that he had successfully lived two distinct lives, if I can put it like that:
1. A Traditional Aboriginal life very much revolving around mythology, ceremony, secret life, initiation and association with the land; and
2. He was a stockman on the Utopia Cattle Station for many, many years - and loved it.
On 27th November 2017 at Camel Camp I collected a 180 x 120cm Dreamtime story comprised of lines of dots (MB052710).
Left: Motorbike Paddy holding up the painting on the day I collected it.
I liked it but had decided to have a chat with him this day about doing some 'Olden Day Stories' in the future!
I asked Denisa Hatches, his granddaughter who speaks good English to help me explain to Motorbike Paddy my idea. The conversation went like this:
Me - "Paddy, would you be interested in painting something different?"
He slowly nodded his head and spoke to Denisa in his local dialect.
Denisa - "He wants to know what you mean - 'something different'?"
Me - "I was thinking about 'Olden Day' stories."
Paddy listening, then spoke to Denisa again in local dialect.
Denisa - "He wants to know what you mean 'Olden Days'!"
I then explained that it could be about his stockman days, his family hunting in the bush, him riding his motorbike, riding horse's, droving cattle, things like that…
Paddy was also listening and quietly nodding his head but with an unsure look on his face. Denisa and he spoke in dialect for a little while and she then said to me that yes, he would.
I then said to Paddy - "But Paddy - you have to have fun!"
He looked serious and again spoke in language to Denisa and she said to me - "He wants to know what you mean when you say - 'you have to have fun'!"
I then told him that he can paint any olden day story that he thinks of and to laugh lots when he's painting it! I want him to be happy painting these stories!
He immediately broke into a big grin and I could see that he understood. I really had no idea how this would go. I had no concept that four or five years of painting 'Olden Day Stories' was about to begin!
It was 13th February 2018 that I collected his first finished one - and it was sensational! See the short videos for yourself and I'm certain that you will understand, plus you will get a very brief, but good insight, of Motorbike Paddy.
(MB053103 - This painting is in the Mbantua Gallery Collection)
A few examples of other 'Olden Days Story' paintings that I collected in those first couple of years are shown below:

MB054452

Family Walking

30 x 30cm

MB054455

Fighting - with Spear, Boomerang and Shield

30 x 30cm

MB054453

Riding a Motorbike

30 x 30cm

MB054457

Man and Woman walking with Billy Can

30 x 30cm

MB054750

Riding a Motorbike and looking for Sugarbag

30 x 30cm

MB054754

Young Men looking for Dogs

30 x 30cm

MB055299

Senior Men at Business Camp

30 x 30cm

MB07613

Elders Painted for Ceremony

30 x 30cm


I broke my ankle in 4 places in May of 2018 but managed to still 'do the run' on July 17th, collecting this gem below!

MB053646

Olden Days Story

180 x 120cm

In the above painting, Motorbike depicts people taking cattle back to the yard. Some men are riding horses. The men wearing red shirts on the bottom of this painting are watching them.

When Motorbike is explaining his stories to me I need to take notes so I can remember correctly!

MB054120

Olden Days Story

180 x 120cm

In this painting, people are shown on motorbikes, resting under trees, camping, hunting bush tucker and having an argument. An old truck and bush shelter can also be seen.

MB054995

Olden Days Story

180 x 180cm

In this painting, Motorbike has painted a boss man from the cattle station and himself. Cattle that have been rounded up can also be seen. Motorbike has also painted camp cooks and trucks that the cattle are put in.
Motorbike Paddy didn't just confine himself to the subject shown in these paintings but ventured further by also painting birds and animals such as emu's, curlews, owls and sugarbag stories (ie. people raiding native bee hives)
Right: Paddy's daughter, Elizabeth Mpetyane and myself holding the painting while Paddy tells us about it.
Above: Paddy's daughter, Elizabeth Mpetyane and myself holding the painting while Paddy tells us about it.

MB054995

Olden Days Story

180 x 180cm

In this painting, Motorbike has painted a boss man from the cattle station and himself. Cattle that have been rounded up can also be seen. Motorbike has also painted camp cooks and trucks that the cattle are put in.

MB056531

Owls in My Country

30 x 30cm

MB056042

Owls in My Country

30 x 30cm

Being born a bushman back in the 1930's in the Utopia Region of the Northern Territory, Motorbike Paddy, during his life, was exposed to an array of wildlife - reptiles, mammals, birds, insects, and so on. Here Motorbike Paddy paints owls as he sees them.

MB054995

Olden Days Story

180 x 180cm

In this painting, Motorbike has painted a boss man from the cattle station and himself. Cattle that have been rounded up can also be seen. Motorbike has also painted camp cooks and trucks that the cattle are put in.

MB056332

Eagles and Emus in My Country

270 x 150cm

MB058402

A Man Collecting Honey

90 x 90cm

MB056651

Curlews in the Bush at Night

75 x 75cm

MB056534

Emu's Wandering in My Country

90 x 60cm


A little about Motorbike Paddy
Motorbike Paddy grew up on his lands some 250kms northeast of Alice Springs. There were no schools for aboriginal people so he never learnt to read or write but learnt bush skills from his family, such as hunting with spears and boomerangs, understanding the land and how to live off it. Ceremonies, song, dance and mythology were also a big part of his life.
Additionally, stock work on Utopia Station dominated his working life in his early years. Utopia Station was in those early days owned by the McLeod family. Motorbike Paddy and his brother Motorcar Jim were recognized by the McLeod's as being reliable and dependable, so Alec McLeod gave Paddy a motorbike to do the 'bore runs'. It was an important job and a motorbike was quick compared to the old trucks that the Cattle Station had.
Bores had to be serviced on a regular basis. If they broke down and the water supply ceased, then the cattle would perish!
This was one of many responsibilities that Paddy had and the aboriginal families aptly named him 'Motorbike Paddy'. (They also named his brother Motorcar Jim because he drove the supply truck when mustering was on.)
His main Dreamtime responsibilities were Rain (water), Goanna (Lizard) and Anwekety (Conkleberry or Conkerberry).
Born: c. 1932
Language Group: Anmatyerre and Arrernte (Aranda)
Country: Ahalpere, Utopia Region, North East of Alice Springs, Northern Territory
Medium: Acrylic on Canvas, Wood Carving and Boomerangs
Subjects: Olden Days Story, Rain Dreaming, Anwekety (Conkerberry), Ahakeye (Bush Plum), Country, Goanna, Sugarbag, Owl, Emu, Eagle, Curlew, Crow
$3,600.00
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