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Corroboree, or Dance of the Natives of New South Wales, 1820

Walter Preston (engraver)

engraving, hand-coloured (frame: 67.3 cm x 81.0 cm, sight: 37.8 cm x 57.0 cm)

This work depicts the ceremonial practice of corroboree by the Awabakal Aboriginal peoples of Mulubinba (Newcastle) around 1818. Awabakal senior man Burigon, also known as Long Jack or King Jack (d. 1820), is the tall, smiling figure standing second from left. James Wallis, commandant of the Newcastle penal settlement, later said he remembered Burigon ‘with more kindly feelings than I do many of my own colour, kindred and nation’, and it has since been suggested that Wallis’s good relationship with Burigon facilitated the creation of the remarkable visual records of Mulubinba and the Awabakal dating from his tenure. It is thought, for instance, that Burigon accompanied convict and artist Joseph Lycett on his sketching expeditions, giving Lycett access to scenes that would ordinarily have been closed to non-Aboriginal people. Burigon was stabbed in the course of tracking two escaped convicts, John Kirkby and John Thompson, on 27 October 1820 and suffered in pain until his death some 10 days later. Kirby was convicted of his murder and was hanged on 18 December: the first white man ever convicted and executed for murdering an Aboriginal person under British law. Thompson, however, was acquitted.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2013

Accession number: 2013.27

Currently on display: Gallery Three (Robert Oatley Gallery)

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Artist and subject

Walter Preston


Subject professions

Indigenous identity

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