Warning: Indigenous readers are asked to note the following story contains information about a person who is deceased.
Prominent Katherine actor-musician Barlang Lewis has died overnight.
The Arnhem Land-born actor burst onto the entertainment scene for his role in the 1970’s movie ‘The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith’.
Mr Lewis was named a finalist in the NT Australian of the Year in 2016.
From Jimmie Blacksmith to King Lear, Mr Lewis delivered critically-acclaimed and thought-provoking acting performances during his 40-year career.
Born in Ngukurr on the banks of the Roper River in South Eastern Arnhem land, Balang is the son of a Welsh father and an Indigenous mother.
Brought up traditionally, he left school at 12, working as a bricklayer and stockman before he was discovered for the role of Jimmy Blacksmith while waiting at an airport.
His documentary film, Yellow Fella, is an exploration of his mixed race heritage, and was the first Australian Indigenous documentary selected to screen at the Cannes Film Festival.
Mr Lewis’ retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear transformed the mad king into an Aboriginal elder, challenging Australians to examine Indigenous culture in new ways.
A unique singer-songwriter, Mr Lewis pioneered the use of didjeridu in contemporary music, and runs an arts centre and cultural festival called Walking with Spirits.
Most recently he won the best actor prize (international) at this month’s Canberra Short Film Festival for the three-minute UK-produced film “They Live in Forests, They are Extremely Shy”.
The short film tells the fictionalised story of an Indigenous Australian man invited to London for the Colonial Exhibition of 1886.
Out of respect, Mr Lewis’ family has asked he be referred to with his traditional name.