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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.

Henry "Seaman" Dan

2009
Nathan Kelly

type C photograph on paper (sheet: 61.0 cm x 50.7 cm, image: 56.0 cm x 40.5 cm)

Henry Gibson Dan AM (1929–2020), universally known as Seaman Dan, was a Torres Strait Islander singer/songwriter who grew up on Thursday Island. While working as a boat captain and diver for pearls and trochus shells Dan sang regularly at parties, hotels and community events. In 1999, a musicologist visiting Thursday Island, Karl Neuenfeldt, encouraged him to make a record; his first album, Follow the Sun, was released on his 70th birthday. His music, a mixture of blues, hula, slow-jazz and pearling songs, reflects the diverse cultures and traditions of the Torres Strait. Dan won an ARIA award for his album Perfect Pearl in 2004 and the Red Ochre Award in 2005. In 2009, at the age of 80, he won another ARIA for Sailing Home, which he expected to be his last album – but he released three more, as well as two compilation albums. Dan received the Hall of Fame Award at the 2013 National Indigenous Music Awards and the Grant McLennan Lifetime Achievement Award at the Queensland Music Awards in 2019.

Photographer Nathan Kelly has captured Seaman Dan's infectious energy and love of music in this image, which was taken at the Tanks Arts Centre during the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair in 2009. Dan played at Bippera-Kymel: The sounds of FNQ and Torres Strait, where he launched his album Sailing Home.

Purchased 2010
© Nathan Kelly

Artist and subject

Nathan Kelly (age 33 in 2009)

Henry G. Dan AM (age 80 in 2009)

Subject professions

Performing arts

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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