'I keep my own culture' - David Gulpilil's early life

Title:
'I keep my own culture' - David Gulpilil's early life
Category:
NFSA ID:
324832
Year:
1978
Courtesy:
David Gulpilil
WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following clip may contain images and voices of deceased persons
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David Gulpilil I am full-blood Australian Aboriginal and I come from nearly about three or four thousand miles up the north of Australia - Northern Territory and I'm a tribal man. I live there. Full-blood. I born there. My family live there - which our forefathers lived many years. When I born and I was growing up, I went to mission school. First white man's missionary came. And worked up amongst the Aboriginal people, and they gave me a name, David. No, first my name is Joe. Then I went to the settlement school which is the welfare settlement and they asked me what was my name and I said 'My name is Gulpilil' and suddenly they said, 'ah, yeah, we'll give you David' and I said 'Oh, good.' I went to both schools but I didn't like it. See culture is ... you got your culture, I got my culture. Anyone got culture. I keep my own culture.

We hear clap sticks.

In this oral history David Gulpilil talks about his background and his early life. In this excerpt he describes himself as a 'full-blood Australian Aboriginal and I come from nearly about three or four thousand miles up the north of Australia - Northern Territory and I'm a tribal man. I live there. Full-blood. I born there. My family live there - which our forefathers lived many years.' Gulpilil talks about how he was given the European name David at a welfare settlement school. Before that in mission school he'd been given the name Joe. 

This oral history was recorded without an interviewer and it's powerful to hear Gulpilil talk about himself in a stream of consciousness without answering an interviewer's questions. In this short extract he seamlessly interweaves different elements - talking about his country, his ancestors, how he got his European name, his dislike of western schooling and his love for his culture. With strength and pride he says 'you got your culture, I got my culture. Anyone got culture. I keep my own culture.'

This is a very engaging recording made relatively early in his career (eight years after his first on-screen role in Walkabout, 1970). His voice is recorded very cleanly which captures the clear and measured use of his words. His voice has a calming quality and you are made to feel that he is speaking directly to you. His powerful storytelling technique is a great example of the strong tradition of oral history in Australian Indigenous culture.

This oral history was broadcast on ABC Radio in Adelaide in 1978.

The cover image for is from 3 Dances Gulpilil, 1978, Film Australia Collection © NFSA.