David Mowaljarlai was a senior traditional lawman of the Ngarinyin people in the West Kimberley, Western Australia. Not only he was an extraordinary painter, he was an anthropologist, teacher preacher, story teller and linguist. He grew up on a mission and for several years during his childhood he was a patient at the Derby Leprosarium. During this time he learnt to play the violin and became a mechanic.
Mowaljarlai underwent various stages of Aboriginal initiation. He worked as a skipper on a pearling lugger, a male orderly, a construction worker during the Second World War and a truck driver. He also managed his people's Arts and Craft industry.
As an important leader in his community, Mowaljarlai both influenced and campaigned for his people to be respected. He was one of the first to be an ordained elder in his church and was deeply concerned for both the preservation of his culture and peaceful co-existence between black and white communities.
During the 1970s and 1980s, he held seats on the Aboriginal Arts Board, the Western Australian Museum Sacred Sites Board and the Institute of Aboriginal Studies in Canberra. He married Turki Mowaljarlai and they had six children.