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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 Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Wainburranga (Paddy Fordham)

1986
Martin van der Wal

inkjet print on rag paper, edition 2/30 (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.

Purchased 2005
© Martin van der Wal

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Martin van der Wal (age 33 in 1986)

Wainburranga (age 54 in 1986)

Related information

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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)
Wainburranga (Paddy Fordham)
Wainburranga (Paddy Fordham)
Wainburranga (Paddy Fordham)

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 past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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