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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.

David Gulpilil's Hands

2004
Ross Honeysett

photographic print from film on paper (sheet: 30.5 cm x 38.1 cm, frame: 46.5 cm x 56 cm depth 1.5 cm)

David Gulpilil AM (b. 1953), actor and dancer, is a Yolngu man of the Mandalbingu language group and was born near Maningrida in Arnhem Land. Having been raised in the bush and educated in the customs of his people, Gulpilil was sixteen when British film director, Nicholas Roeg, saw him performing a traditional dance and cast him in the film, Walkabout, released in 1971. His career as an actor has since spanned five decades and encompasses several groundbreaking and iconic films. In addition to blazing a trail for subsequent generations of Indigenous performers, he has contributed to the heightened awareness of Aboriginal culture and stories within the community generally. As Gulpilil told This Is Your Life in 1979: 'I want to share [my culture] to the Western world and I'm not doing it for myself. I'm doing it for black and white to know better that we have culture and history still existent and I'll keep trying.'

Ross Honeysett's photograph evokes the memorable scene in Storm Boy (1976) where Gulpilil's character, Fingerbone Bill, relates a Dreaming story about a pelican, including a dance. Gulpilil's palms are opened to the camera, and the sunlight casts a shadow of them onto the sand behind him. Footprints are visible in the sand as well.

Gift of the artist 2021
© Ross Honeysett

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

Ross Honeysett (age 51 in 2004)

David Gulpilil AM (age 51 in 2004)

Subject professions

Performing arts

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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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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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