Born at Titjikala with parents from Erldunda and Aputula (formerly known as Finke) regions, Sally Nangala Mulda went to school at Amoonguna when her family moved there. She married and had her only child as a young woman but tragically lost both her husband and baby daughter. After losing the use of her left arm in a childhood accident, Mulda later faced the challenge of losing her sight in one eye. Widowed and without children Mulda lived with friends and extended family in Alice Springs for many years. Having never painted before joining Tangentyere Artists in 2008, from the outset she sought to record those interactions that constitute life for so many Aboriginal people today.
Initially Mulda struggled with painting because of her compromised vision, but following surgery on her good eye, she grew in confidence to create her own rich and fluid figurative style that celebrates her place in the world. Mulda loosely applies layers of colour in broad brush strokes to depict the world around her.
Of Mulda’s domestic environment, a tap drips into a bowl for the dogs, children play, men and women sit in the shade occasionally playing cards, making punu and seed jewellery, playing with babies, celebrating important events, occasionally drinking while ranges in the background pulse with the heat or the stars shine in clear skies. Further afield, Sally Mulda explores life since the Intervention: camping in the riverbed in swags, Council rangers moving people on, police pouring out grog or taking people off to sober up. Mulda observes minutiae, such as the navy blue Northern Territory police uniform introduced in early 2012.
Mulda records events she witnesses and experiences without any particular judgement. It is as it is. Her oeuvre represents a journalistic approach to local situations. This is especially pertinent in that many of her paintings include text that explains each scene in strong and simple language. This form of social commentary on the daily lives of Town Camp residents in Alice Springs represents an important catalogue of lived experiences, captured for posterity. As Mulda explained about her many years living at Little Sisters Town Camp located at the base of Mt Gillen, just south of Heavitree Gap, ‘Us grownups sitting one side, all’a kids playing and making noise on the other, all’a dogs – big – little – all running round, making noise, all feeling good for home, you know?’
In 2011, Mulda moved to Abbo ’s Town Camp, located by the Todd River. Life is slightly different for her there and as a result of the move, Mulda’s paintings, some including text, continue to reveal more fascinating insights about life today in Central Australia. Mulda was a finalist in the Telstra 2012 National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award, and was the winner of the 2011 ‘Rights on Show’ Annual Human Rights Art Award. Her work has been acquired by many private collections and several public institutions.