Living Legend: Gulpilil mural

by Cathy Gallagher 


Image: Razan Fakhoury

The paint has just dried on a striking new mural celebrating the life and legacy of Yolŋu actor, dancer, singer and painter, David Gulpilil AM on the east wall of TANDANYA National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, on Kaurna Country, Adelaide.


Designed by South Australian artist, Ngarrindjeri man Thomas Readett (pictured above) and approved by Gulpilil personally, the hand-painted mural was commissioned by ABCG Film in collaboration with TANDANYA National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, and supported by Arts South Australia, Department of Premier and Cabinet, and Screen Australia’s P&A Plus program.


The mural acknowledges the extraordinary life and career of Gulpilil, referencing both his Yolŋu culture and Country, as well as his current chosen home of Murray Bridge in South Australia. The mural was hand-painted over three days by Readett together with Apparition Media artist Laura Jackson.




Artist Thomas Readett said “It’s my absolute honour to be involved in this project, painting David Gulpilil and creating a mural that celebrates his life and legacy. It’s really important to have murals like this that celebrate First Nations Peoples, and it's great seeing how the public and community respond.”


Premier of South Australia, Hon Steven Marshall MP said “David Gulpilil is a national icon who has a long connection to South Australia, from his much-loved role in Storm Boy (1976), to currently living here, which is why we are thrilled for TANDANYA National Aboriginal Cultural Institute to be the home of a permanent mural in his honour.”


CEO of TANDANYA National Aboriginal Cultural Institute Dennis Stokes said “As the National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, we pay tribute to the living legend David Gulpilil with this mural. It is important for our community to acknowledge and to thank him.”


General Manager of TANDANYA Gemma Page said “Bringing together First Nations artist Thomas Readett with Apparition Media - the team behind the stunning Adam Goodes mural in Sydney and the Gurrumul mural in Darwin – has created something very special, impactful and meaningful.  We’ve had so many calls and emails with positive feedback.”


Apparition Media’s Tristan Minter said “Apparition Media is proud to be part of producing this amazing mural immortalising David Gulpilil. Thomas Readett is an amazing artist and we are privileged to support him in making this piece come to life.” 


Filmmaker Rolf de Heer said “David’s impact on Australian cinema is profound. I think he’s changed the way we perceive it is possible to make cinema in this country.


Word of the mural has spread fast on social media with acknowledgement from all around Australia as well as the Pacific and as far away as the UK and Argentina, in a show of the worldwide respect for the national screen icon.


In 2021 Gulpilil marked his 50th year in Australian cinemas with the release of his film My Name is Gulpilil. The film received principal production investment from Screen Australia in association with the Adelaide Film Festival and the South Australian Film Corporation. Financed with support from the ABC. Special thanks to the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.


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