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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.

Ginger Riley at the Limmen River, Northern Territory

1992 (printed 2013)
Helga Leunig

inkjet print on paper (sheet: 42.0 cm x 29.7 cm, image: 38.0 cm x 25.5 cm)

Ginger Riley Munduwalawala (c. 1937-2002), stockman and artist, was born in south-eastern Arnhem Land, in the coastal salt-water country of the Mara people. He grew up in the bush, attending school from time to time at the Roper River Mission (later the Ngukurr Aboriginal community). From the 1950s onwards he worked as a stockman and labourer on Nutwood Downs Station and elsewhere in the Northern Territory. In the late 1970s, he moved back to the Gulf country and to Ngukurr. He began to paint in about 1986, quickly establishing a distinctive style of large-scale landscape painting in brilliant colour. In 1992, Riley won The Alice Prize and produced a series of works for the new Australian Embassy in Beijing. The following year he won the First National Heritage Commission Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award. After visiting London for the Aratjara: Art of the First Australians exhibition, he began to sign his paintings, following the example of European artists whose work he had seen. In 1994 his paintings were included in Tyerrabarrbowaryaou II at the Havana Biennale. He was awarded an Australia Council Fellowship for 1997-1998 and a major retrospective of his work was held at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1997. In 1999, he admitted that while intoxicated, he had signed many paintings that were not his own; he stated that confessing to his misdemeanour was a great relief. He lived to see the Federal Court decision in mid-2000 that substantial native title rights existed on his traditional lands around the Roper, Cox and Limmen Bight Rivers near the Gulf of Carpentaria. However, in 2002 the ‘boss of colour’ succumbed to cancer.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Helga Leunig 2013
© Helga Leunig

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

Helga Leunig

Ginger Riley (age 55 in 1992)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Donated by

Helga Leunig (4 portraits)

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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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