Cordula Ebatarinja was the only woman in the boom period of the Hermannsburg School to have a career as a painter. Like her husband, she sometimes minimised detail in order to maximise impact. Her work was characterised by a sense of symmetry or equivalence in compositional shapes.
Cordula was assertive and learned by painting with her artist husband, Walter, who was personally taught by Albert Namatjira. She developed her own stylised system within the social environment of her family circle and the wider Hermannsburg School. Cordula seems to have engaged artistically with Lindsay Imbarndarinja, one year older, who was brought up in her husband’s extended family. She may have inspired Arnulf Ebatarinja, her husband’s nephew, who developed his own distinctive stylisation.
After the death of her husband, Walter, in 1968, Cordula included traditional Aboriginal family life in nostalgic activities in the bush. The people portrayed were generalised rather than individualised and they enjoyed life with no sign of western culture such as clothing, implements or shelter. Their bush home was illustrated lovingly.
Cordula is important for her fine paintings and for leading the way for Indigenous women artists. In contrast, Gloria Moketarinja, wife of Richard Moketarinja, also talented, did only a few paintings in the early 1950s.
Cordula started to paint seriously in 1951. Her early paintings, as Rex Battarbee observed, were somewhat like her husband’s. She developed her own stylisation and later produced scenes of Aborigines in their country. Women were not encouraged by the Mission to go out and paint. Cordula was Arrernte, Subsection (Skin) Peltharre. As at 1957 the family was in Hermannsburg district with nine children, including future artists Joshua (and his Kukatja wife Clarice) and Desmond.
In the Census of Wards of 21.5.1969, Cordula was described as a single woman at Areyonga, south west of Hermannsburg, having been widowed in 1968.
Cordula was of the Malbunka family. Her brother Gustav produced some watercolours in 1951 before turning his attention to raising cattle.
Prince Philip purchased one of Cordula’s paintings during his visit to Melbourne for the Olympic Games in 1956.