Skip to main content

The National Portrait Gallery is temporarily closed to the public until further notice.

Menu

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.

Portrait of Jawoyn Elder, Margaret Katherine

2015
John Gollings

inkjet print on paper, edition A/P (frame: 102.7 cm x 142.7 cm depth 4.5 cm, sheet: 83.0 cm x 112.0 cm, image: 60.0 cm x 90.0 cm)

Margaret Katherine (unknown-2018), a Jawoyn woman from the Buyhmi clan group (Duwar moiety), was born at Joe’s Garden east of Katherine (now part of the Jawoyn Aboriginal Land Trust). Although she lived in the Katherine region all her life, her traditional country was the Dalakngalarr area of the Mann River. She spent her early childhood walking the country with her mother and father, hunting, trapping and eating bush tucker. With them, at that time, was a brother who was later removed by government authorities. She never attended school, learning everything about her culture, language and traditions from her grandfather, father and mother. When Margaret was about 8 years old, her mother and father went to Katherine to work at a local store and they lived at the store for a while. Later they moved to Maude Creek near Katherine Gorge and spent time walking the country, hunting and fishing around Katherine and the Donkey Camp areas. When she was a young teenager, she worked at the Katherine Hospital, walking a long way from home to carry out laundry work. In about 1960 the police made the family move to Beswick Creek, which later became Bamyili and is now Barunga; she lived there for the rest of her life. She was a senior Jawoyn Elder and sat on the Jawoyn Council of Elders. She spoke Kriol, Jawoyn, Mialli, English and Ngalkbon. She co-authored many books on Jawoyn culture, language, plants, animals and traditions, and appeared in the ABC series First Footprints.

John Gollings photographed Margaret Katherine in the Narwala Gabarnmung Rock Shelter in a remote area of Arnhem Land. Archaeologists first investigated the inaccessible shelter in 2010. A fragment of an axe found there has been dated at 35 500 years, making it the oldest artefact of its kind known in the world. Art in the shelter dates back at least 28 000 years. In 2012 the Smithsonian magazine ran an article by Colin Schutz entitled ‘Is This the Oldest Cave Art on the Planet?’ Schutz wrote 'The most important thing about the Gabarnmung cave paintings . . . is not their age, not their colour or their splendour or their intricacy. It’s that the Jawoyn people, the descendants of the ancient civilization that created the works, are still alive. For the Jawoyn . . . the paintings, tools, spears, ochre-anointed skulls and bones are their history.'

John Gollings, a Melbourne-based photographer, specialises in documentation of architecture and the built environment, in both modern and ancient places worldwide. He made his first photographs and received darkroom tuition at the age of eleven; later, he studied arts and architecture at Melbourne University and RMIT. By 1967 he had begun work as a freelance advertising photographer specialising in fashion. Gradually he obtained large-scale location work and travel accounts, and architectural photography became the dominant aspect of his practice. In 1976 he received private tuition from Ansel Adams in his darkroom at Carmel, California. He has taught the use of large format cameras, and lectured on architecture and advertising photography at Prahran College, Melbourne and Sydney universities and Philip Institute amongst others. Recently he has spent more time on longer-term projects with academic or cultural significance for books, exhibitions and fine prints. When not in Asia, photographing hotels, resorts and buildings as well as such ancient sites as Angkor Wat and Vijayanagara, he operates from a collaborative design, photography and 3D rendering studio in Melbourne.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the artist 2017
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
© John Gollings/Copyright Agency, 2021

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

John Gollings (age 71 in 2015)

Margaret Katherine

Donated by

John Gollings (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.

Colin Madigan and Robert Hughes, Canberra
Colin Madigan and Robert Hughes, Canberra
Colin Madigan and Robert Hughes, Canberra
Colin Madigan and Robert Hughes, Canberra

Three Dimensional

Magazine article by Kate Gollings, 2004

Kate Gollings describes an encounter between three generations of Australian photographers; David Moore, Max Dupain and John Gollings.

The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

The Gallery

Visit us, learn with us, support us or work with us! Here’s a range of information about planning your visit, our history and more!

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

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.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency