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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.

Ningali Lawford-Wolf

1996 (printed 2016)
Stuart Spence

type C photograph on paper (frame: 98.5 cm x 97.0 cm, sheet: 73.8 cm x 73.8 cm, image: 59.7 cm x 59.7 cm)

Ningali Lawford-Wolf (1967–2019), Wangkatjungka actor and dancer, began her career as a dancer at the Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre, later performing with the Bangarra Dance Theatre. Her award-winning 1994 one-woman show Ningali toured internationally in 1995. Lawford-Wolf performed in stage productions for Belvoir Street Theatre, the Black Swan State Theatre Company and the Sydney Theatre Company. Her film career included starring roles in Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002), Bran Nue Dae (2009) and Last Cab to Darwin (2015), for which she was nominated for the AACTA Award. She also appeared in ABC television's Mystery Road (2018). Off screen Lawford-Wolf was involved in community work in Fitzroy Crossing, advocating on issues relating to education and employment for traditional owners and becoming a director of the Indigenous-owned Kimberley Agricultural and Pastoral Company. In 2019, Lawford-Wolf tragically died while on tour with the Sydney Theatre Company's acclaimed adaptation of Kate Grenville's The Secret River, a production she helped to create. A cultural consultant and artistic collaborator with Bangarra Dance Theatre, Lawford-Wolf's legacy was honoured in their 2021 production SandSong.

This work is from a series by Stuart Spence in which his sitters were asked to interpret the theme of water. Faced with a selection of props for the shoot, Spence recalls that Lawford-Wolf 'instantly gravitated to the fish, draping it delicately around her neck. She somehow made it look like it belonged there'.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the artist 2016
© Stuart Spence

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

Stuart Spence (age 36 in 1996)

Ningali Lawford-Wolf (age 29 in 1996)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Donated by

Stuart Spence (1 portrait)

Related portraits

1. Russell Crowe, 1995 (printed 2016). All Stuart Spence.

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.

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© National Portrait Gallery 2021
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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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