In Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori’s paintings places and people are inseparable, stemming from the Kaiadilt tradition of naming people through association with the place and totem one was born into. By adding the Kaiadilt suffix ~ngathi (meaning ‘born at’) to a person’s birthplace, a name is created. Sally Gabori, born by the small creek at Mirdidingki, started life as Mirdidingkingathi.
This is where I was born on Bentinck Island next to the Mirdidingki River Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori
Gabori painted six key places hundreds of times each, every painting different from the one before, sometimes markedly. Yet in each there are landscape cues to be found.
DELVE DEEPER: The life and art of Sally Gabori
Gabori’s ‘My Country’ paintings celebrate her birthplace, Mirdidingki, centred on a small creek that runs from inland Bentinck Island to a small bay on the southern coast, facing towards the massive rivers of the mainland Gulf coast. Sally was born here around 1924.
Mirdidingki Creek is tidal, connected to the ocean at high tide and separated by long sand flats at low tide. Inland, saltpans emerge, while at the creek’s edges mangroves create a heavily forested tidal estuary towards its mouth. Halfway along the creek, a small but striking island devoid of vegetation emerges from the mangroves – a piercing circle of white among the green trees. Nearer the creek’s mouth, a branch extends to the east along the back-beaches of the bay. The creek ends in a long sandy tidal flat that extends into the bay for hundreds of metres, then transforms into a vibrant network of connecting coral reefs teeming with turtles, fish and other sea life.
Sally’s paintings of Mirdidingki often include strong linear icons at their centre, referencing the creek there, while others depict either the tree she was born under, the places loved ones are buried, the sand flats where shell fish are collected, or the camp site and middens where shells amassed over millennia.
Acknowledgment of Country
The Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Gallery stands in Brisbane. We pay respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders past and present and, in the spirit of reconciliation, acknowledge the immense creative contribution First Australians make to the art and culture of this country.
It is customary in many Indigenous communities not to mention the name or reproduce photographs of the deceased. All such mentions and photographs on the QAGOMA Blog are with permission, however, care and discretion should be exercised.