The Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art is saddened by news of the passing of Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda (Mrs Gabori).
On behalf of the family and Mornington Island Community, MiArt released the following statement overnight:
Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda (Mrs Gabori) b.c.1924 to 11 February 2015, who was and is, a respected traditional Kaiadilt elder died peacefully surrounded by family and friends this morning. She is a well loved and respected member of the community who will be remembered and sorely missed.
From 2005, at the age of 81, she turned the art world upside down with her vibrant, energetic and contemporary paintings of Kaiadilt Dulka (Country). Her paintings have been collected by leading galleries and collectors nationally and internationally and her legacy will live on.
One of Australia’s most extraordinary practitioners, Mrs Gabori, the senior Kaiadilt woman artist from Bentinck Island in Queensland’s Gulf of Carpentaria, was incredibly prolific over her short career. Her indefatigable zeal to communicate her stories, knowledge, and experiences accumulated over an incredible life — spanning over 90 years from traditional life to the coming of the Australian frontier to contemporary globalised Australia — won her great admiration and has left an astonishing cultural legacy.
QAGOMA Director Chris Saines, CNZM, said the Gallery feels privileged to have had the opportunity to work with Mrs Gabori throughout her career, from her inclusion in the 2006 Xstrata Coal Emerging Indigenous Art Award to a major solo exhibition currently in development which will open at the Queensland Art Gallery in May 2016.
Her paintings from the Collection had recently been hung in the QAG Watermall during the working dinner for the G20 World Leaders’ Summit in November. These were the works chosen, by the Gallery and the Australian Government, to represent the vitality of Australian visual culture to the rest of the world.
Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda (Mrs Gabori) was born around 1924 on the south side of Bentinck Island, of the South Wellesley Island Group in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Queensland. Her Kaiadilt language name, Mirdidingkingathi, means ‘born at Mirdidingki’, her country on Bentinck Island, and Juwarnda means ‘dolphin’, her totem.
Living the early years of her life traditionally on her country, Mrs Gabori was in her mid-20s when her entire Kaiadilt family were driven from their ancestral lands by natural disasters, forcing them to relocate to the Methodist mission on Mornington Island in Lardil country. Mrs Gabori was a bride of war, taken by her husband Pat Gabori after killing her brother, the Kaiadilt leader King Alfred. She grew to love her husband and many of her paintings celebrate Dibirdibi Country, Pat’s country that they shared responsibility for and cared for before leaving their island home.
Mrs Gabori began painting in 2005 at Mornington Island Art after circumstances left her unable to return to Bentinck Island for the dry season. Her immediate love of paint — the full spectrum of colour available to her — triggered an outpouring of ideas and emotion as she begun transcribing abstract mind maps that overlaid her country, the ancestral stories from those places, and the people she knew, loved and shared her country with in an extraordinary idiosyncratic painterly style.
The universal themes of Mrs Gabori’s paintings of love, loss, longing, passion and pride transcended cultural and linguistic boundaries and allowed the senior Kaiadilt woman from remote northern Australia communicate with, and deeply touch, so many from around the world.
Mrs Gabori’s tenacity ensured that the stories of her home, her people and her life will endure, living on for generations through paintings as vivacious as her life.