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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.

Paddy Dhathangu, 1986

Martin van der Wal

inkjet print on rag paper (sheet: 42.0 cm x 29.7 cm, image: 25.3 cm x 25.3 cm)

Paddy Dhathangu (c. 1914-1993), Liyagawumirr (Yolngu) painter, was one of the Ramingining-based artists who contributed to the Aboriginal Memorial (1987-1988), comprising two hundred painted burial poles that are now on permanent display in the National Gallery of Australia. Dhathangu went to mission school on Mlingimbi and worked as a gardener before becoming a corporal in Darwin during World War 2. Returning to his home country he resumed gardening, and started painting and taking part in ceremonies. He participated in many group shows from the 1960s onward, including the Australian National Gallery (National Gallery of Australia) exhibitions My Country, My Story, My Painting (1986) and Continuing Tradition (1989). In 1983 he made a series of fifteen bark paintings depicting the Wagilag Sisters story, a fundamental creation tale of the Yolngu, which is a highlight of the collection of the National Gallery and featured in the exhibition The Painters of the Wagilag Sisters Story (1997).

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2005

Accession number: 2005.61.3

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Martin van der Wal (age 33 in 1986)

Paddy Dhathangu (age 72 in 1986)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

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On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Wainburranga (Paddy Fordham), 1986 Martin van der Wal
Wainburranga (Paddy Fordham), 1986 Martin van der Wal
Wainburranga (Paddy Fordham), 1986 Martin van der Wal
Wainburranga (Paddy Fordham), 1986 Martin van der Wal

Big shots

Magazine article by Djon Mundine OAM, 2017

Djon Mundine OAM brings poignant memory and context to Martin van der Wal’s 1986 portrait photographs of storied Aboriginal artists.

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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.