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Robert Tudawali Robert Tudawali i(A106940 works by) (a.k.a. Robert Wilson; Majingwanipini (skin Name))
Born: Established: 1929 Melville Island, Tiwi Islands, Top End, Northern Territory, ; Died: Ceased: 26 Jul 1967 Darwin, Darwin area, Northern Territory,
Gender: Male
Heritage: Aboriginal
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BiographyHistory

Robert Tudawali, along with Ngarla Kunoth, was the first Indigenous actor to have a substantial role in an Australian film in Jedda (1955). Prior to this feature film, Indigenous actors were offered only small parts as stockmen, trackers or domestic servants.

Tudawali was working in a garage in Darwin and playing Australian Rules football when the producers of the film Jedda found and cast him in a lead role.

Tudawali's traditional name was Majingwanipini and he had grown up on Melville Island, of Tiwi descent. Tudawali's father, Jabidauwi, was a buffalo shooter first on Melville Island and then for cattle stations on the mainland outside Darwin. The family returned to Melville Island for the off-season.

Tudawali worked for the army during World War II and survived the 1942 Darwin bombing. After the war, he worked in a variety of occupations. He met and married his wife Peggy, of the Wargite people, in 1948, and was encouraged by her to learn to read and write.

Tudawali was cast as Marbuck and Jedda was filmed on location in remote parts of the Northern Territory and in the studio in Sydney. After the filming was complete, Tudawali returned to Darwin and menial labour as the poor state of the Australian film industry could not offer him any acting work. Tudawali's wife was suffering from tuberculosis and despite treatment for it passed the infection on to Tudawali on his return to Darwin.

In 1956, Tudawali was signed to play the role of Emu Foot in Dust in the Sun, produced by Chips Rafferty. After filming on location, Tudawali was in Sydney in January 1957 to film in the studio. The film was not a critical or commercial success. Tudawali received a prison sentence in 1959 for offences relating to alcohol. Tudawali was cast in a secondary role in a documentary feature The Flying Spear, and on the television series Whiplash.

When acting roles dried up, Tudawali returned to Darwin and joined the boxing circuit but his poor health meant that he was regularly injured in the ring. He became heavily involved with the Aboriginal Rights Council during this period. His first marriage ended and Tudawali married a woman named Nancy.

In 1967, at the age of 38, Tudawali died from severe burns sustained in an argument and from advanced tuberculosis.

In 1987, a film of his life was made titled Tudawali.

Most Referenced Works

Notes

Last amended 7 Feb 2018 12:18:20
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