Skip to main content

Ticketed entry is in place to safely manage visits to the Gallery, so please book ahead.

Menu

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Dr G Yunupingu

19 December 2017

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, 2009 Guy Maestri
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, 2009 Guy Maestri. © Guy Maestri

Dr G Yunupingu (1970-2017), a man of the Gumatj clan of north-east Arnhem Land, learned to play guitar, keyboard, drums and didgeridoo as a child. Blind from birth, the left-handed Yunupingu famously learned to play a right-handed guitar upside-down. He performed with Yothu Yindi from 1985 to 1992, when he formed his own outfit, the Saltwater Band.

Dr Yunupingu shot to prominence in 2008 with the release of his debut album, which was nominated for four ARIAs including Male Artist of the Year and Album of the Year; it won Best World Music Album and Best Independent Release. In March 2008 critic Bruce Elder foreshadowed Dr Yunupingu’s importance: ‘Yunupingu has the potential to be to Indigenous music what painters such as Rover Thomas were to Indigenous art’, he wrote. ‘He is using a modern medium – in his case an angelic voice and the musical styles of gospel, soul and folk – to tell the traditional stories of his people and his culture. The result is authentically traditional aboriginal music that is instantly accessible to Western audiences. Dr Yunupingu sang about Gumatj stories in Yolngu but his song ‘Gurrumul History’ is in English – the better to spread his story. As he said: ‘I like singing about the story properly, singing all the right names of land, and ancestors, because I have to give out the right story. It is like a celebration.’

Related information

Portrait 58, Summer 2017-18

Magazine

Paul Cézanne, Bill Henson and Simone Young, Australian cinema’s iconic women, and Feminist portraits by Kate Just.

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, 2009 Guy Maestri
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, 2009 Guy Maestri
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, 2009 Guy Maestri
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, 2009 Guy Maestri

Yolngu boy

Magazine article by Ashleigh Wadman, 2011

Guy Maestri’s portrait of the musician was conceived after the artist saw Gurrumul perform in Sydney on New Year’s Eve 2008.

The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery

The Gallery

Explore portraiture and come face to face with Australian identity, history, culture, creativity and diversity.

Plan your visit

Timed ticketing, location, accessibility and amenities

We would like to thank our partners.
© National Portrait Gallery 2020
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.