Tom E. Lewis (born 1958, Ngukurr, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia) is a Murrungun man (an Indigenous Australian tribe), who is an actor and musician. His first major role was the title role in the 1978 Fred Schepisi film The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith.
He was born and grew up at Ngukurr (Roper River) in South Eastern Arnhem Land. Lewis worked as a bricklayer and stockman before moving into theatre.
He spent many years working in the Melbourne theatre scene, having worked with Playbox, Melbourne Theatre Company, Melbourne Workers Theatre, Arena and Handspan Theatres. With Handspan, he devised the internationally successful Lift Em Up Socks, a semi-autobiographical multi-media work. He is currently playing Othello in the Darwin Theatre Company's production of Shakespeare's classic.
In 2013, Tom played "an indigenous version of King Lear" in the Darwin Theatre Company's production 'The Shadow King'.
Lewis is also a musician and plays didgeridu, flute, clarinet and guitar. Past musical projects include the band Circle of Breathing. In the 1990s he toured in acclaimed jazz duo, Lewis & Young through Europe, Asia and Australia. He has played with Jane Rutter, Eve Duncan, Uli Klein and composer George Dreyfus.
In 2000 he was chosen to run with the Olympic torch in Melbourne.
In 2005, he released the album Sunshine After Rain through label Skinnyfish music.
In 2013, he released Beneath the Sun, also through the Skinnyfish label.
He played the title role in the 1978 Fred Schepisi film The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, after being discovered by Schepisi's wife at an airport. Lewis recently co-wrote a short documentary film, Yellow Fella, about his experience of coming from a mixed race heritage, for which he was awarded the 2005 Bob Maza Fellowship by the Australian Film Commission. Directed by Ivan Sen, it was selected to screen at the Cannes Film Festival this year, the first Australian Indigenous documentary ever chosen for Official Selection.
Lewis considers his artistic creations to be "medicine and good stories for people - like a Corroboree ground but in the modern world".
He has also worked on Dust Echoes, an Indigenous animated website of Dreamtime stories produced by the ABC. Dust Echoes is important he says, "to preserve our culture by using the whitefella technology to embrace our stories. You see the 'propaganda' is bigger than our stories in the dust and so we now are raising those stories from the dust and share it, so people can more understand our culture and bring them to our fireplace." He played one of the leading roles in the psychological thriller Red Hill.
Lewis has been back in Beswick in South Arnhem Land since 2001 where he has initiated a cultural foundation, the Djilpin Arts Aboriginal Corporation, which hosts the “Walking with the Spirits” festival each year.
The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978) ... Jimmie Blacksmith