Ray James Tjangala was born at Yunala rockhole, west of Kiwirrkurra. He is the son of Anatjari Tjampitjinpa, who was one of the original Papunya Tula Artists and Tjungkaya Napangati.
The family moved to Papunya in April 1964 after spending time at Wudungunya rockhole, north west of Puntujarrpa. It was here that Tjangala went to school. However, the family subsequently moved to more established outstations in Waruwiya, Alumbara and Yayayi.
Tjangala started to paint for Papunya Tula Artists in 1987, when he was living in Kintore. By the late 1990s he moved back home to Kiwirrkurra to realise that many of the senior elders who inspired him, had passed away. However, instead of harming his practice this realisation only revived his art making him one of the most recognisable artists working for the company.
Many paintings of his relate to the soakage water site of Yunala, west of the Kiwirrkurra community in Western Australia. In the Dreamtime, this is where his ancestors camped and where they gathered the edible roots of the bush banana or silky pear vine Marsdenia australis, also known as Yunala, which were in abundance in that region. The designs in the painting represent body paint worn by the men during ceremonies relating to Yunala.