Abstract Australis
Abstract Australis
Brighton, Victoria 3186 Australia
Ph: 0407 501 808
ABN: 66 086 690 771
[email protected]

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PRINCE OF WALES (MIDPUL) (c.1937: d.2002)

Traditional land owner, Elder and artist Midpul or ‘Prince of Wales’ was born around 1938 at Belyuen (Dellisaville), a small community on the far side of Darwin Harbour. Prince was born with the tribal name of Midpul and became an Elder of the Dangalaba tribe, part of the Larrakia who are the traditional saltwater people of today’s Darwin region. Prince’s father Imabul (Ichungarrabilluk), also known as ‘King George’, was a traditional landowner and a leader of ceremonies and dances, and actively resisted the invading colonisation of his people's land. By 1916, Darwin was forbidden land to Aboriginal people and Imabul lobbied strongly for the right of his people to live in their own country. Imabul passed away when his son was just three years old, leaving Prince to carry on his traditional responsibilities to the Larrakia people.

Prince of Wales grew up amongst his mother’s people, the Wadgigiyn, across the harbour from Darwin on the Cox Peninsula. Much of his adult life was spent at the beach camp at Cullen Bay, which was later developed into an expensive marina development. Midpul earned his ‘English’ title of Prince of Wales when he danced for Queen Elizabeth during a Royal trip to Australia in the 1960s. Recognised as a traditional owner of the land on the western side of the Darwin Harbour, Prince was a custodian and leader of Larrakia ceremonies and dances, a renowned didgeridoo player and ceremonial body painter for much of his life.

Prince began painting in 1995. He used his art to express and preserve the essence of his active ceremonial life. His technique of using a repetition of vibrant dots and occasional bars imbued his work with a sense of improvised musicality. Prince’s use of unrestrained, bold colour contradicted the origins of his designs, which had been passed on by his ancestors as marks on the bodies of ceremonial participants. His early works were painted on scraps of cardboard and other found materials. In his last years, Prince expanded the scale of his 'Body Marks' paintings to make his mark as a cultural authority as a Larrakia elder, as reflected in his statement, '... I make the marks.'

In 1997 Prince held his first solo exhibition was held at Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, and then went on to hold another four exhibitions at the Karen Brown Gallery in Darwin and the Hogarth Gallery in Sydney. Prince had works included in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award five times. In 2001 he won the Telstra Open Painting Award at the prestigious Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award shown at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.

Acknowledged as one of the most significant Senior Aboriginal artists who painted in the Northern Territory’s Top End, Prince made an outstanding contribution to the art world through his paintings of Larrakia culture and ceremony. Prince was passionate about the entire process of painting and the creation of modern minimalist art works. Although his physical movements were restricted after he suffered a stroke, Prince continued his lifelong practice and passion for painting. The artist drew his inspiration for the imagery in his contemporary paintings from the body decorations and marks used in ceremonial rituals. Prince of Wales was the first contemporary Aboriginal artist from the Larakia region to gain wide renown. Following his debilitating stroke, Prince moved to the Kulaluk beach community. As a member of the Dangalaba clan of the Larrakia people, he was one of the original claimants in the 1977 Kenbi Land Claim.

Prince’s artistic career was nurtured by prominent Darwin art dealer Karen Brown, who arranged all of his exhibitions and his inclusion in major awards. Although there was initial resistance from the earliest days of the contemporary Aboriginal art movement to the disclosure of sacred symbols to the public, Prince remained unchallenged as he expressed his art on canvas. Prince of Wales is acknowledged as having laid the foundations for the emergence of a contemporary Larrakia Art Movement.

In a Northern Territory Government Media Release, (12th December 2010), Minister for Construction Gerry McCarthy announced that the cycle and pedestrian bridge over the Stuart Highway would be named the Midpul Bridge. “Prince of Wales was the first contemporary Aboriginal artist from the Larrakia region to become well known and respected in the art industry,” Construction Minister Mr. McCarthy said.

Prince of Wales died 27th December 2002 aged 67. Prince’s passing was officially recorded in Parliament by Senator Ridgeway, who paid tribute to Midpul ‘as one of the Northern Territory’s most renowned artists…an exceptional dancer, didgeridoo player, songman and artist” Senator Ridgeway further noted that ‘Midpul only began painting in 1995-96, yet his works hang in many of Australia’s foremost public and private collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria and the Art Gallery of NSW…’

In 2003 Prince’s work was exhibited posthumously in the group exhibition ‘Emerge’ at the Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory.

Prince of Wales’ (Midpul) Selected Collections include Karen Brown Collection; Australian National Gallery Canberra; Art Gallery of New South Wales; Art Gallery of Western Australia; Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory; National Gallery of Victoria; Wollongong Art Gallery NSW RMIT Collection; Kerry Stokes Collection; Gantner Myer Collection; Art Bank, Sydney NSW; Laverty Collection; Levi - Kaplan Collection USA and numerous Private Collections both nationally and internationally. Private Collectors Nationally and Internationally.


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