New David Gulpilil exhibition debuts at Tandanya

Running until September, the exhibition features work by the iconic Indigenous artist, actor, and cinematic extraordinaire, David Gulpilil, and his family.

Image: Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute. 

New exhibit Djungi Gulpilil, an exhibition of stunning traditional works by Yolŋu artists from Northeast Arnhem Land, who are all closely related to actor, painter, dancer and singer David Gulpilil, has debuted at the Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute.

Through documentary My Name is Gulpilil, David tells his own story, and now, through Djungi Gulpilil, his family share their deep connection to David, one another and Country, and the importance of the ongoing living connection to culture, education, language and kinship. Following the nation-wide success of the documentary, Djungi Gulpilil, which runs until September 18 in the Western gallery, adds to suite of works which honour and celebrate the life and career actor, dancer, singer, and painter David Gulpilil. Gulpilil is a Yolŋu man whose country is Gulparil Marwuyu, near the Ramingining township in the NT.

Bula’bula artists featured in the exhibition include the acclaimed painter Philip Gudthaygudthay, whois culturallyGulpilil’s gutharra (grandson), Gulpilil’s yapas (sisters) Evonne Munuyngu and his twin, leading weaver Mary Dhapalanay, and long ago galay (wife) R Djunginy.

Gulpilil’s waku (nephew) Bobby Bununggurr is a singer, dancer, law man and advocate for reconciliation. His paintings are an insight into Yolŋu life from both the old days and now. Gulpilil and Bununggurr travelled extensively in their youth, performing, dancing and singing as ambassadors for Yolŋu culture throughout the 1970s and 80s.

“We are all related. This is David’s family. This is how we stay together, through our culture, through our Country. We are Gurrwiliny People- Swamp People,” Bobby Bununggurr says.

After being diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017, Gulpilil retired from the silver screen two years later, relocating to Adelaide to receive treatment. Now separated from his kin, culture and land, he yearns for his country and family.

Responding to Gulpilil’s cultural aches – the exhibition brings his yearnings closer through artwork that reminds him of his beginnings. Through this, the Djungi Gulpilil exhibit honors not only Gulpilil’s work, but the strong Yolŋu culture that binds the family together. Featured work will showcase Gulpilil’s own paintings, King Brown and Bluetongue lizard on loan AGSA, and prints and weavings by Gulpilil and his family, many of which are prolific artists themselves.

The Djungi Gulpilil Exhibition will air a curated selection of free movie screenings running Monday to Saturday at 1pm, made with and by the Yolngu community. The screenings include Gulpilil’s most notable films, such as Charlie’s Country (2014) and Ten Canoes (2006).

His latest and last film, an intimate documentary aptly titled My Name is Gulpilil, directed by Australian filmmakers Rolf de Heer and Molly Reynolds, will also showcase during the exhibition period. The film documents Gulpilil grappling with his cancer diagnosis while marking the end of a two-decade-long collaboration between the trio.

Earlier this year, the significance of Gulpilil’s legacy was preserved in a street mural painted by Ngarrindjeri man, Thomas Readett, on Tandanya’s Eastern walls. 

Commissioned by ABCG films in collaboration with the National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, the artwork depicts four illustrations of Gulpilil from his youth until the present day.

The Djungi Gulpilil is presented in collaboration with Tandanya, ABCG film, Bula Aboriginal Arts, AFF youth and Arts SA and is co-curated by Molly Renyolds.

To find out more, visit the Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute Facebook page.

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