Arts Law | Artists in the Black is deeply saddened by the passing of David Dalaithngu. One of Australia’s finest artists in any medium, Dalaithngu was a trailblazing actor, dancer, singer and painter whose work opened the door for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation in Australian film, theatre and art.
A Yolŋgu man of the Mandhalpuyngu clan, Dalaithngu was raised in Arnhem Land. After his breakout performance in Walkabout (1971) – aged just eighteen – Dalaithngu led a 50-year career on screen with roles in Storm Boy (1976), The Tracker (2002) and Charlie’s Country (2014) among a great many others. His magnetic presence on screen was matched only by his grace and power as a dancer, one of the most celebrated of his or any generation. He was also a painter, a singer and a stage performer, including in his 2004 Helpmann Award nominated autobiographical production.
Celebrated especially as an actor in Australia and abroad, Dalaithngu won a prestigious Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014. In 1987 he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia and received the Centenary Medal in 2001.
Dalaithngu has a particularly warm place in the Arts Law family as a founding patron of Artists in the Black when it was launched in 2004 as Australia’s first and only legal service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. That patronage formed part of a lifetime of strong cultural advocacy and leadership in Australia and on the world stage. We extend our condolences to his family, his communities, his friends and colleagues whose lives he touched over an extraordinary and inimitable career.
Vale David Gulpilil: the inimitable actor who changed the movies, and changed us – Guardian Australia