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Rosalie Kunoth

1953 printed 1958
an unknown artist

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 23.4 cm x 17.7 cm, image: 21.9 cm x 16.6 cm)

Rosalie Kunoth-Monks OAM (1937-2022), Arrernte and Anmatjere woman and Aboriginal activist, starred in the film Jedda when she was sixteen. Selected from local schoolgirls because she had the shy demeanour producer Charles Chauvel was looking for, she was coached, cared-for and chided by Chauvel and his wife Elsa, with whom she stayed throughout the filming. Because the scenes were filmed out of sequence Kunoth never knew the story until Jedda was released in 1955; it previewed at the Star Theatre, a segregated cinema in Darwin, but Kunoth was given special dispensation to sit with the white audience. Both Kunoth and her mother were dismayed by the sexualised nature of Kunoth's role, which breached their customs. Kunoth later became involved in politics, social work and environmental causes, and in August 2008 was a spokesperson for Amnesty International in Canberra, censuring Federal Government intervention in the Territory as a violation of human rights.

This portrait is an early casting photograph taken at Coolibah Station in the Northern Territory in July 1953. Rosalie was renamed Ngarla by Elsa Chauvel in the film's credits and marketing material. As Kunoth recalled: 'She said that I had to be Ngarla. And every part of my body screamed and said, "I am not a Ngarla. I am an Apunaga woman", because I'd been brought up knowing who I am.'

Purchased 2016

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Rosalie Kunoth-Monks OAM (age 16 in 1953)

Subject professions


Performing arts


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