Skip to content

Update from the Gallery regarding COVID-19

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is open. We are observing strict physical distancing and hygiene measures to protect the health of visitors and staff and minimise the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Read the latest visit information




Contemporary art

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art

View More:


Gunmirringu - The great hunter



Dr David Malaŋi


1927 - 19 Jun 1999

Language group

Manyarrngu, Arnhem region


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


Other Title

Gunmirrngu - The great hunter



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


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Dr David Malaŋi

Artist profile

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 5 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 5 publications


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.