Larrakia language. Born 1938. Died 2OO2.
Known as Midpul to his Larrakia kin, there is some debate as to how Prince of Wales acquired his royal epithet. Some suggest it was because he danced for Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Darwin in 1963. More likely is that it was because he was the son of King George (Imabul) and grandson of King Miranda, the recognized leader of the Larrakia at the time of the British arrival in Darwin. Midpul never ascended to King because by the time he became leader of the Larrakia, the patronizing colonial practice of “crowning” Indigenous leaders had been eliminated. Irrespective, Midpul was a proud and important leader of his people. In 1971, he and his brothers mounted a public protest to have parts of Darwin declared a Larrakia reserve, and later he was actively involved in the successful Kenbi Land Claim. Despite suffering a stroke that paralyzed most of his left side, Midpul began painting in 1995, drawing his inspiration from the body markings used in ceremonial rituals. Although the Larrakia had a long artistic tradition, Midpul was the first artist to seek a sustained engagement with the contemporary art world. Without any template to work from, he produced works of singular poetry and grace; restrained yet visceral; tremulous yet compellingly assured. Compared to the tight-knit dot- paintings of the Central desert, Midpul’s paintings were a revelation. Across stark, unmodulated grounds, his marks hover like ghostly fingerprints. Haptically direct, these marks offer a stark evocation of the body in movement, creating a haunting metaphor for the memory ancient rituals burnished into the ether of time. In 2OO1, Midpul was awarded the general painting prize at the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards. His works are held in most state collections in Australia, including the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and the National Gallery of Victoria.