Dr David Malangi was born in 1927, the year after the Methodist Mission was established at Milingimbi, Central Arnhem Land. His early years were spent in this area, where he received initiation into Manyarrngu culture from his parents and extended family. He began painting after World War II.
David Malangi is probably best known for his involvement in a copyright dispute. A bark painting he produced depicting the first death was purchased by European collector, Karel Kupka on behalf of the French Musee National des Arts dÁfric et dÓceanie. Enroute to Europe the work was reproduced, and later featured, without his knowledge or permission, on the one dollar note in 1966. The design depicted the hunter Gurrmirringu with seated song men holding instruments thought to be clapsticks and didgeridoos to guide the ancestral spirit. Surrounding the group were the animals representing the hunter’s catch and his final funeral feast. The evil spirit, King Brown Snake who had killed Gurrmirringu is at the base. As custodian of the story he felt responsible for the story being ‘stolen’and shown to the uninitiated greater population of Australia.
He was one of the first Aboriginal artists to have his work included in an international exhibition of contemporary art, at the Biennale of Sydney in 1979 and in 1988 he collaborated on The Aboriginal Memorial – a group of 200 log coffins now on permanent display at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra – to mark 200 years of European occupation of Australia.
David Malangi was also honoured with the Australia Council Emeritus Award in 1998.
There are several paintings by David Malangi available for purchase at Gannon House Gallery.