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An image of Gunmirringu - The great hunter by Dr David Malangi

Dr David Malangi

(Australia 1927 – 19 Jun 1999)

Language group
Manyarrngu, Arnhem region
Gunmirringu - The great hunter
Other titles:
Gunmirrngu - The great hunter
Place of origin
RaminginingCentral Arnhem LandNorthern TerritoryAustralia
Media category
Materials used
natural pigments on carved wood

167.0 x 30.0 x 15.0 cm

Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Purchased 1984
Accession number
© Dr David Daymirringu/Bula'bula Arts. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney
Not on display
Further information

Manharrngu legend tells of Gurrmirringu, the first people of the Manharrngu people and a particular spirit man; a powerful hunter, law giver and warrior. He roamed the land at Ngurrunyuwa and Mulanga on the eastern bank of the Glyde River hunting and collecting food.

One day while on a hunting trip and looking north toward the sea as he went along, he could see smoke rising in the distance from the off shore island of Murrungga. He wanted to go to wherever that smoke was coming from and he said to himself: "Yaa, where that fire is burning, I'll go over there and see where it is coming from".

So he threw the harpoon, but the harpoon didn't go far, it landed in the sea, and where it landed it became a reef that is now called Garangala. (Sometimes it is said that the rock is Gunmirringu himself.) He threw the next harpoon but it drifted eastward and landed at the northern point of the Banyan Island. That point is now called Lunggu Ga Dharra, meaning harpoon that landed. The last harpoon he flew it straight to Murrungga and it landed on the north side of the island in the sea, and where it landed it became the reef that is now called Botha.

That is how Gunmirringu from Mulanga ended up at Murrungga Island bringing rakay (the nut from sedge rush) and other foods with him to Murrungga Island. That is why they have rakay at Murrungga Island. And so, one story says that he was killed by the bite of the king brown snake, Darrpa. He is associated with the king brown snake, the death adder, the nut from the sedge rush (rakay), the white berry bush (raga) and yams (rongi/maladjakmurru) that he collected.

Brian Yambal

Bibliography (5)

Susan Jenkins (Editor), No ordinary place: the art of David Malangi, Canberra, 2004, 69 (colour illus.).

Djon Mundine, One sun one moon: Aboriginal art in Australia, ‘The concept of style in Central Arnhem Land’, pg. 99-104, Sydney, 2007, 100 (colour illus.).

John Mundine and Renée Porter, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Aboriginal and Melanesian', pg. 57-71, Sydney, 1988, 64 (illus.).

Margo Neale, Yiribana: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collection, Sydney, 1994, 90, 91 (colour illus.), 139. plate no. 42

Hetti Perkins and Ken Watson, A material thing - objects from the collection, Sydney, 1999, 6.

Exhibition history (4)

Bulada, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 23 Aug 1997–14 Dec 1997

A material thing - Objects from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 31 Aug 1998–09 Feb 1999

No ordinary place: The art of David Malangi:

One sun, one moon, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 03 Jul 2007–02 Dec 2007