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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.

Thanacoupie

1981
Juno Gemes

gelatin silver photograph, selenium toned on paper (sheet: 60.8 cm x 51.0 cm, image: 44.2 cm x 30.3 cm)

Thanacoupie AO (1937–2011), ceramic artist, community worker, elder, and spokesperson, grew up as Gloria Fletcher in North Queensland. There, she came into contact with painters including Dick Roughsey, with whom she held her first exhibition of paintings in 1968. In 1970 she visited East Sydney Technical College and became enchanted with ceramics, enrolling in a three year certificate course and becoming the first Aboriginal solo ceramic artist. At this time she reclaimed her totemic name, which means wattle flower (it was spelled Thancoupie until 1987, when she decided it would be better spelled Thanacoupie). For thirty years she was the foremost Aboriginal potter and ceramic sculptor, expressing her relationship with the land, living things and the elements through a medium that was used only for ceremonial purposes and decoration in her native community. The spherical sculpture on the grass near the front entrance of the adjacent National Gallery of Australia is by Thanacoupie. She held sixteen solo exhibitions and numerous group shows throughout Australia and abroad, and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Queensland in 1998.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2004
© Juno Gemes/Copyright Agency, 2021

Artist and subject

Juno Gemes (age 37 in 1981)

Thanacoupie (age 44 in 1981)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

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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.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency