Sally Gabori paints her grandfather’s country


Like so many great artists Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori — senior Kaiadilt artist from Bentinck Island in Queensland’s Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia — excelled at painting the world she knew, here she introduces you to her grandfather’s country.

‘Dingkari is an outside hunting ground to the south of Bentinck Island. It has a shallow reef but has very deep water right next to it. It is a good place to hunt dugong and turtle.’ Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori

Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori, Kaiadilt people, Australia c.1924–2015 / My Grandfather’s Country 2009 / Synthetic polymer paint on canvas / Acquired with the Founding Donors’ Fund 2010 / Collection: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra / © Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda/Copyright Agency
Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori, Kaiadilt people, Australia c.1924–2015 / My Grandfather’s Country 2011 / Synthetic polymer paint on linen / Collection: Courtesy the Estate of the artist and Alcaston Gallery / © Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda/Copyright Agency

Dingkari (Dingkarri) is the Country of Mirdidinkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori’s grandfather Dingkarringathi, and brother, Makarrkingathi Dingkarringathi Thuwathu Bijarrb (King Alfred). It is a small islet and important tidal hunting ground to the south of Sweers Island. It is partially connected to Sweers by a long series of shallow rocky reefs called Karandjalt, which extend into the waters of the Gulf like a long hook, connecting the islet to the base of Bardathurr, the highest hill on Kaiadilt Country and the final resting place of Dibirdibi, the Rock Cod Ancestor.

Dingkari was revered as a hunting area, as the deep channels that flow at the edge of the reef attract dugong, turtle and large species of fish. Kaiadilt men would travel to Dingkari using walpu, Kaiadilt log rafts. Most of Sally Gabori’s Dingkari paintings feature circular, oval or rectangular shapes, reflecting the islet at different stages of tidal flux. Some show the interconnecting reefs between Sweers Island and Dingkari, while in others the islet is alone and adrift in a sea of paint.

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