Manharrngu people

Australia 1927 – 1999

Totems of the artist's country 1983 Description: black tree, with leaves and white berries, birds at top right, snakes at bottom and goannas
Place made: Ramingining, central Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, bark paintings, natural pigments on eucalyptus bark

Dimensions: 116.5 h x 75.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1984
Accession No: NGA 84.755
Image rights: © David Malangi Daymirringu. Licensed by Viscopy
  • Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Malangi was repeatedly asked to depict the funeral scene or ‘dollar note story’ and began to develop ‘aspect’ paintings, focusing on elements of the story in the absence of the central narrative.

    Aspect paintings of the white berry tree were developed with a focus on the tree, surrounded by animals to set the scene before the arrival of the Hunter and his subsequent death and funeral.

    In this body of work Malangi employed various compositional devices, through the juxtaposition of forms and colours; rows of white berries were placed against alternating yellow and black leaves or, more abstract still, the berries expanded to fill the entire picture plane.

    The paintings have a ‘singing’ quality akin to the shimmer, known as bir’yunin paintings by fellow Yolngu artists, aspiring to formally convey their spiritual source. The compositions are captivating and complex. One can appreciate the shapes and the textures and the palpable application of paint. In these paintings Malangi crosses the boundaries of Yolngu and Balanda [Indigenous and non-Indigenous] art as a painter in the company of painters everywhere.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra