The fascinating career of the late Bentinck Island artist and senior Kaiadilt woman Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori (c.1924–2015) is explored in a retrospective exhibition at the Gallery. ‘Dulka Warngiid – Land of All’ reveals Gabori’s instinct for vibrant colour, bold forms and gestural brushstrokes, and her deep connection to Country and her home, Bentinck Island.
Taking its title from the Kayardild language name for Bentinck Island, which translates as “the whole world”, “the land of all” or “the one place”, the retrospective reflects on the many stories of Gabori’s place and the body of work she created since commencing painting in 2005 at the age of 81. Among more than 50 works are her first and last paintings, large-scale collaborative works produced alongside other senior Kaiadilt women, and works on paper created toward the end of her career.
This exhibition celebrates Gabori’s life and work, and strengthens QAGOMA’s commitment to visibly acknowledging Queensland’s Indigenous artists. ‘Dulka Warngiid – Land of All’, developed by QAGOMA Curator of Indigenous Australian Art Bruce McLean, includes much loved works from QAGOMA’s collection, as well as works drawn from private and public collections.
The exhibition features four major works by Gabori in the Gallery’s Collection, including a pivotal early work (Dibirdibi Country – Topway 2006), one of her acclaimed monumental six-metre canvases (Dibirdibi Country 2008), a major six-metre collaborative work painted alongside her sisters and nieces (Makarrki – King Alfred’s Country 2008) and one of her late-career master works, the four-panelled Dibirdibi Country 2012. The thematic groupings of works trace Sally’s stylistic shifts over her short but dynamic career, with each one highlighting her relationship to the places on Kaiadilt Country she was tied to. Gabori painted five key places hundreds of times each, every painting different from the one before, sometimes markedly – yet in each work there are landscape cues to be found. There are paintings highlighting the artist’s Country at Mirdidingki; her father’s Country at Thundi; her grandfather’s Country at Dingkari; Nyinyilki, the main outstation on Bentinck; and Dibirdibi Country, the places associated with her husband Pat.
On Saturday 21 May, as part of the opening weekend celebrations, a panel discussion and walking tour will consider the breadth of Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori’s prolific practice, and give personal insight into the late artist’s life and work.
During NAIDOC week a special curator’s tour on Sunday 3 July of the exhibition will offer insights into Gabori’s work, which map traditional country and cultural landmarks on Bentinck Island, in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
From 25 June, GOMA’s Children’s Art Centre will present ‘The Gabori Sisters: Gathering by the Sea’, a large-scale interactive project that has been developed in collaboration with Gabori’s three daughters Dorothy, Elsie and Amanda Gabori. These hands-on, interactive and multimedia activities are inspired by the Gabori family’s homeland and their connection to the sea.