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Archie Roach
, 2008

by Peter Hudson

oil on canvas laid on composition board (support: 180.0 cm x 200.0 cm)

Archie Roach (b. 1956), singer/ songwriter, was born at Mooroopna – a name denoting a deep bend in the [Goulburn] river – and lived at Framlingham Mission before being removed from his parents at the age of four. After two unsuccessful foster placements he settled with a family at Lilydale. When he was eleven, spurred by a schoolmate, he asked the couple he believed to be his parents why he was black and they were white; they told him his birth parents had died in a house fire. His foster sister introduced him to the guitar and keyboards, and he began to play American country songs. At the age of fifteen, he was contacted by his natural sister, who told him their birth mother had just died. Bitterly, he took to the road, to spend the next fourteen years on the streets, fighting and drinking. He met his lifelong partner, Ruby Hunter, at a Salvation Army drop-in centre when she was sixteen. Having had children with her, and having beaten his alcohol dependency, he wrote his first song, ‘Took the Children Away’, which he performed in Melbourne on community radio and an Indigenous current affairs program in 1988. He was invited to open a Paul Kelly concert in early 1989; his performance was met with stunned silence, followed by shattering applause. Kelly produced Roach’s first album, Charcoal Lane (1990), for which Roach won two ARIAs and a human rights award. Charcoal Lane was on the US Rolling Stone’s Top 50 albums for 1992 and achieved gold sales in Australia. Six more albums followed before Into the Bloodstream, released in 2012. Both solo and with Ruby Hunter, Roach has recorded and performed with many top Australian and international acts. Ruby Hunter died at the age of fifty-five in early 2010.

Peter Hudson grew up in northern and outback Queensland and studied art at the Queensland College of Art in Brisbane in the 1970s. Returning to North Queensland, he worked as a jewellery designer and musician before moving to Maleny in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. In 1998 he made the first of many trips to the Aboriginal communities of Daguragu and Kalkarinji in Gurindji country in the Northern Territory. The Gurindji people, their land and the story of the Wave Hill walk-off became a major influence on his work, and led him to portraiture. He illustrated the children’s book of Paul Kelly’s and Kev Carmody’s song ‘From Little Things, Big Things Grow’ (2008), making portraits of Kelly and Carmody as well. Since then he has illustrated the books of Shane Howard’s song ‘Solid Rock’ and Neil Murray’s ‘My Island Home’, again making portraits in the process. The National Portrait Gallery has Hudson’s portraits of Neil Murray and Chad Morgan.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the artist 2010
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2010.141