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Rosalie Kunoth (Ngarla Kunoth)
, 1953

by an unknown artist

gelatin silver photograph (sheet: 23.4 cm x 17.7 cm, image: 21.9 cm x 16.6 cm)

This portrait is an early casting photograph taken at Coolibah Station in the Northern Territory in July 1953. Rosalie was renamed Ngarla by Elsa Chauvel in the film’s credits and marketing material. She was 16 years old at the time and selected for the role because of her shy demeanour and photogenic qualities. In her 1995 interview for the Australian Biography series, Kunoth recalled Elsa Chauvel selecting the her acting name: ‘She said that I had to be Ngarla. And every part of my body screamed and said, ‘I am not a Ngarla. I am an Apunaga woman’, because I’d been brought up knowing who I am.’ It was the first Australian film to feature two indigenous Australians in the lead roles and the first fully Australian-funded narrative feature film to be shot in colour.

Purchased 2016
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Accession number: 2016.33