David MALANGI DAYMIRRINGU, Gurrmirringu's wife Enlarge 1 /1

David MALANGI DAYMIRRINGU

Manharrngu people

Australia 1927 – 1999

Gurrmirringu's wife c. 1968 Materials & Technique: sculptures, natural earth pigments on wood

Dimensions: 85.0 h x 18.0 w x 13.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2005
Accession No: NGA 2005.594
Image rights: © David Malangi Daymirringu. Licensed by Viscopy

Gurrmirringu is the first ancestor of the Dhuwa moiety Manharrngu clan of Central Arnhem Land. After a successful day hunting, Gurrmirringu was returning home to his wife. On the way he made camp under a Wurrumbuku or white berry tree, where he was poisoned by an evil spirit in the form of a Darrpa, or king brown snake. His death gave rise to the first mortuary rites of the Manharrngu people, in which the story of Gurrmirringu’s life and death is re-enacted in dance and song.

The figure of Gurrmirringu’s wife, made for the public domain and not for a ceremonial purpose, is decorated with images of the Wurrumbuku across the chest, arms and thighs, and with Manharrngu ceremonial designs on its abdomen. A decorated dilly bag, carved in low relief, hangs from the figure’s neck at the back. The dilly bag has a snake painted on its surface. The figure’s right arm is bent around the back as though to take the weight of the dilly bag. The protruding face is characteristic of David Malangi Daymirringu’s sculptures.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

Gurrmirringu, the first ancestor of the Dhuwa moiety of the Manharrngu people of Central Arnhem Land, was returning home after a successful day’s hunting when he made camp under a wurrumbuku (white berry tree). There he was poisoned by an evil spirit in the form of Darrpa, the king brown snake. Manharrngu mortuary rites re-enact the story of Gurrmirringu’s life and death in dance and song.

This figure of Gurrmirringu’s wife is decorated with images of the wurrumbuku across the chest, arms and thighs, and with Manharrngu ceremonial designs on the abdomen. A dillybag with the painted image of a snake hangs at her back, and both arms are bent as though taking its weight. The protruding face is characteristic of David Malangi’s sculptures, which reflect the distinctive style of his paintings—bold use of black, white and chocolate-brown, and liberal areas of rarrk (crosshatching).

Malangi was born in Mulanga on the eastern side of the Glyde River mouth in Central Arnhem Land. The themes of his paintings derive from ancestral narratives and include depictions of species and aspects of the lands for which he was responsible: Mulanga, inherited from his father; Dhamala and Dhabila to the west; and the lands surrounding the Yathalamarra billabong, inherited from his mother. One of his bark paintings of Gurrmirringu’s mortuary feast was reproduced on the Australian $1 note when decimal currency was introduced in 1966—the first time royalty fees were paid to an Aboriginal artist. Malangi was also a major contributor to The Aboriginal Memorial 1987–88 (National Gallery of Australia).


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014

Description

This is a sculpture by Manharrngu artist David Malangi Daymirringu depicting the wife of the ancestral being Gurrmirringu. The sculpture is shown as an enlargeable image and in a video. Text onscreen and the video soundtrack give information about Gurrmirringu, the story of his death and his importance as the first ancestor of the Manharrngu clan of the Dhuwa moiety in Central Arnhem Land. They also tell of the symbolism of designs on the sculpture and that it was intended for the public domain, not ceremony. The sculpture measures at 85.0 cm high x 18.0 cm wide x 13.0 cm deep and was constructed using natural earth pigments on wood.

Educational value

  • This resource is excellent for the Responding strand in the visual arts curriculum for students in the middle and upper primary school years, especially for those content descriptions that refer to considering the broader context of works of art, such as their social, cultural and historical context and role of the artist and of the audience/s. It also serves as an example of the ways that the societies and cultures of Australia are represented by artists. It may also be useful for teachers of history in year 3 and 4 particularly in relation to content descriptions about the importance of connection to Country for Aboriginal peoples.
  • The resource is of considerable significance for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures cross-curriculum priority. It exemplifies two of the priority’s organising ideas in relation to Aboriginal peoples and Country: their maintenance of a special connection to Country and their unique belief systems. This resource also highlights a third organising idea, which acknowledges the significant contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people locally and globally. David Malangi Daymirringu (1927-99) was at the forefront of depicting and creating original compositions for the Australian public depicting the Dream stories of Gurrmirringu.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra