Kumpaya was born near Kiwirrkurra and walked all around that area with her family. Her brothers include the established artists Charlie Wallabi, Helicopter and Patrick Tjangurrayi. Kumpaya grew up, married and had children while living a nomadic life. She and her family avoided Europeans, but were eventually spotted from an aeroplane during a program of clearing people out of the desert prior to weapons testing in the area. After a number of contacts and lengthy consideration, Kumpaya and her family agreed to move to Jigalong mission, where they re-joined many of their relatives. After living in Jigalong mission, Kumpaya worked on several stations washing clothes and making damper before moving to Parnngurr community in the 1980s. Kumpaya is an extraordinary teacher and orator, with particular skill in gathering artists together for large collaborative projects. She is also part of the Punmu Women's Ranger team.
Kumpaya recalls the time she and her family first saw an aeroplane. They quickly hid their small children (including Ngamaru Bidu) in the bushes by the closest waterhole. The plane was, in fact, searching for them and over subsequent days, the family alternately hid from the whitefellas and ran from aeroplanes and Land Rovers. Eventually, the pursuers spotted the smoke of the family's campfire and drove up to their camp. The whitefellas gave everyone bananas, oranges and apples. Kumpaya says that they put the food on the fire but it cooked away to nothing and they threw it away. The whitefellas also gave them tea and sugar, but Kumpaya and her family thought the sugar was poison and threw all the food away.
Photograph courtesy and copyright Tobias Titz.