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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.

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu

2009
Guido Maestri

oil on linen (frame: 203.0 cm x 172.4 cm depth 6.6 cm, support: 197.5 x 167.0)

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu (1970–2017), a Gumatj man from north-east Arnhem Land, was born blind but learned to play guitar, keyboard, drums and didgeridoo as a child. He performed with Yothu Yindi from 1985 to 1992, when he formed the Saltwater Band. Gurrumul shot to prominence in 2008 with the release of his debut album Gurrumul, which was nominated for four ARIAs and won two. Critics raved about his unearthly voice, fusion of music styles and authentic Aboriginal sound and stories. In a cover article Rolling Stone called him 'Australia's most important voice'. Gurrumul sang about Gumatj stories in Yolngu, but his song 'Gurrumul History' was in English, to spread his story. 'I like singing about the story properly, singing all the right names of land, and ancestors, because I have to give out the right story. It is like a celebration.'

Guido Maestri saw Gurrumul perform in Sydney on New Year's Eve 2008 and found it unforgettable. He arranged a hasty sitting with the musician at Sydney airport soon after, taking several sketches and a photograph. Maestri worked on the painting for a month, listening to Gurrumul's music as he built up the image layer upon layer. The portrait won the Archibald Prize for 2009.

Gift of the artist 2011. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program.
© Guido Maestri

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.
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Audio description

2 minutes 10 seconds
Show transcript

Artist and subject

Guido Maestri (age 35 in 2009)

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu (age 39 in 2009)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Donated by

Guido Maestri (1 portrait)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

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.

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu

Dr G Yunupingu

Magazine article, 2017

Dr G Yunupingu (1970-2017), a man of the Gumatj clan of north-east Arnhem Land, learned to play guitar, keyboard, drums and didgeridoo as a child.

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu

Yolngu boy

Magazine article by Ashleigh Wadman, 2011

Guy Maestri’s portrait of the musician was conceived after the artist saw Gurrumul perform in Sydney on New Year’s Eve 2008.

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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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