Malangi spent the formative years of his life on the east bank of the Glyde River in the Dhuwa moiety lands of Mulanga, where he was born.
Mulanga comprises the smaller areas of the coastal Ngurrunyuwa, the vast Gupulugurrm plain and Rapam, a distant jungle. Rocky outcrops give way to mud flats, mangrove-lined tributaries and swamplands. At Ngurrunyuwa a reddish-purple metallic rock, known as ratjpa, is found. This pigment is frequently used in Malangi’s paintings.
The Ancestral Being Gurrmirringu, known as the great hunter, lived in this area. One day while Gurrmirringu sat by a wurrumbuku [white berry tree] he was killed by a king brown snake. Gurrmirringu was the ‘first man’ [the Ancestral Forefather] thus his death gave occasion for the first mortuary rites for Manharrngu people.
The mortuary rites associated with Gurrmirringu are the predominant feature of many of Malangi’s paintings connected to Mulanga. These rites provided the foundation for many barks painted in the 1960s and remained a key subject in the ensuing decades. It was a depiction of this story on bark which was reproduced on the reverse of the Australian one dollar note in 1966.
In his maturity Malangi focused on ‘aspect’ paintings, based on elements of the Gurrmirringu Story. These include the wurrumbuku, the king brown snake and luku, the foot of Gurrmirringu.
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