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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.

George Burarrwanga, Warumpi Band

1984 (printed 2021)
Juno Gemes

inkjet print on paper (image: 30.6 cm x 45 cm, sheet: 34.6 cm x 49 cm)

George Rrurrambu Burarrwanga (1957–2007) was a Yolngu singer, activist and a founding member of the Warumpi Band. Considered to be a pioneer of Australian rock music, Rrurrambu wrote and recorded music in English and First Nations languages. Born and raised on Elcho Island in the Northern Territory, Rrurrambu was living and working in Papunya, 260km west of Alice Springs when he, Neil Murray, Denis Minor and brothers Gordon and Sammy Butcher formed the Warumpi Band. The band supported Midnight Oil on tours throughout Australia, helping to cement them and their music in the Australian pub rock lexicon. As a lead singer and digeridoo player, Rrurrambu, sporting a big afro, became known for his electric stage presence. After the Warumpi Band disbanded in 1989, he went on to perform as a solo artist and became the frontman of Birdwave. When Rrurrambu was diagnosed with terminal cancer he returned to Elcho Island where he passed away in 2007.

Juno Gemes' portrait of Rrurrambu shows him as the charismatic frontman of the Warumpi Band during rehearsals for the First Australians concert at the Sydney Opera House. Chicka Dixon, Chairman of the Aboriginal Arts Board and producer of the event, invited Gemes to photograph this historic moment – the first major concert by First Nations performers at the Opera House.

Purchased 2021
© Juno Gemes/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

Juno Gemes (age 40 in 1984)

George Rrurrambu Burarrwanga (age 27 in 1984)

Warumpi Band

Subject professions

Performing arts

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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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