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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.

Wainburranga (Paddy Fordham), 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)

Wainburranga (Paddy Fordham) (c. 1932-2006), Rembarrnga painter, sculptor, printmaker and dancer, lived in the bush before moving to Maranboy, where he first saw white people. While working as a stockman in the Victoria River and Murranji regions he was given the name Fordham by station owners. In the 1960s he lived at Maningrida and helped to establish the outstation at Guyun. He started painting in 1983; by 1987, he was painting the Captain Cook story of the Rembarrnga-Ngalkbon people, shown in the film Too Many Captain Cooks (1988). His historical paintings, incorporating events, themes, and iconography from both Aboriginal and European cultures, quickly won wide acclaim. Wainburranga contributed 23 lorrkon (hollow log coffins) to the Aboriginal Memorial at the National Gallery of Australia, observing ‘we are not book men we are letter-stick men’. Henceforth he made many more wood sculptures, mostly of Balangjangalan spirit figures, and in the early 1990s he began printmaking. He was included in groundbreaking international exhibitions of the 1990s and his work is held in major collections across Australia.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2005
© Martin van der Wal

Accession number: 2005.61.5

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Martin van der Wal (age 33 in 1986)

Wainburranga (age 54 in 1986)

Related information

The Companion

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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.