Gurrmirringu, The Great Ancestral Hunter, c.1960 descriptive label attached verso natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark 79.0 x 48.0cm (31 1/8 x 18 7/8in).
PROVENANCE The Collection of Dorothy Bennett, Darwin Lawsons, Sydney, April, 1988 The Collection of Milton and Alma Roxanas, Sydney
Malangi inherited the authority to paint the Gurrmirringu story from his father and it is the most prevalent theme in his ouevre. It tells of how death came to the Manharrngu people and the origins of the mortuary ceremony. The central episode occurs under a white berry tree (Wurrumbuku) where Gurrmirringu, the great hunter was resting by a waterhole. Whilst cooking his daily catch, Darrpa, the brown snake, appeared from the roots of the tree and with a venomous bite, killed him.
In this rendition, Malangi depicts the hunter decorated with fine rarrk body paint, bent elbows and surrounded by his weapons as well as the yams and nuts collected whilst on his hunt. The fine white ochre stipling filling in the background represents the fruits of the white berry tree under which he sat. Though these elements are typically associated with the moment of burial itself, the deceased hunter's legs are usually outstretched. Here, one is bent and resting on the knee which may suggest it is the moment prior to his death. Malangi perfectly captures the imposing figure of the great hunter, with his large body and powerful limbs taking up the majority of the composition. The fine, vertical brushstrokes and the stippling filling the background of the work create a shimmering effect which was a typical technique used to convey the spiritual nature of an event or theme and clearly set it in an Ancestral realm.
Cf. For a similar example see Gurrmirringu, the Great Ancestral Hunter, late 1960s, in S. Jenkins (ed.), No Ordinary Place: The Art of David Malangi, Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, 2004 pl.2, p.61; for a detailed description of the Gurrmirringu myth see L.A. Allen, Time Before Morning: Art and Myth of the Australian Aborigines, Rigby Australia, 1976, pp.180-185
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