Sally Gabori  is a Torres Trait artist, born on Bentinck Island, off the northern coast of Australia, around 1924. She lived there until the 1940’s when she moved to neighbouring Mornington Island with her Kaiadilt kin. There, the small group lived a largely separate life from the Lardil people, the indigenous people of Mornington Island. Neither she, nor any of her Kaiadilt relatives, participated in Mornington Island’s substantial art, artefact and craft industry from the 1950’s, although Gabori had been a keen weaver and maker of fine string bags and other artefacts as a young woman.

 

When she moved to Mornington Island, Gabori was one of four wives to Pat Gabori. She gave birth to eleven children, as well as caring for one of her co-wife’s children, as is Kaiadilt tradition, and was grandmother and great grandmother to many more. Gabori was born Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda which is her tribal name, but her English name comes from her husband.

 

In 2005, Sally Gabori was in her early eighties and living in the aged care hostel on Mornington Island. During an outing to Mornington Island Arts and Craft, she asked if she could be taken to gather grass for weaving. While waiting, she was given a canvas and started experimenting. More paintings followed, each becoming more sure of line and use of brilliant colour. Within seven months, she had produced enough to hold her first exhibition at Brisbane’s Woolloongabba Art Gallery – it was a sell-out. Soon Gabori’s lush canvases were being sought by leading galleries and collectors Australia and worldwide.

 

All of Sally Gabori’s stories relate to her homeland of Bentinck Island. Most are based on the Island’s unique system of stone fishtraps, related to the creation and other stories associated with her country or inspired by Mirdidingki (whose beach is rich in prized turtle eggs) and those of her husband and brother. Gabori’s paintings represent an inventive individual response, original and naïve in the full sense of the word, from someone who spent her life seeing the world through Kaiadilt eyes. It is this sense of spontaneity melded with a confident painterly quality and a joyous colouration which captures the colours of sea and its life, as well as the flora and fauna of her country, that catapulted Sally Gabori’s paintings to the forefront of Australian contemporary art.

 In 2006, she was a finalist in Queensland Art Gallery’s Xstrata Coal Emerging Indigenous Artists Award and the ABN Amro 2006 Emerging Artists Award. In 2007, she was a finalist in Darwin’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award and the Togart Contemporary Art Award

 

From July 3 to November 6, 2022, the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain is hosting thethe first major solo survey exhibition her work Gabori, outside Australia. At this occasion a comprehensive mongoraph was published. 

Exhibitions of Gabori’s work include Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori: Dulka Warngiid – Land of All, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane and National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2016–17); Sally Gabori – Painted Island Home, Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne (2016); Sally Gabori: Colour Country – A Survey 2005–2013, Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne (2015); Danda ngijinda dulk, danda ngijinda malaa, danda ngad – This is my Land, this is my Sea. This is who I am. A survey exhibition of paintings by Sally Gabori, 2005–2012, Drill Hall Gallery, Australian National University, Canberra (2013); Sally Gabori, Sydney Contemporary, Carriageworks, Sydney (2013); Mundamurra Ngijinda Dulk: My Island Home, Sally Gabori, The Gallery in Cork Street, London (2010); Sally Gabori. Danda dulk ngijinda dulk. This Land is My Land, Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, University of Virginia, Charlottesville (2010); and Sally Gabori, Raft Artspace, Darwin, (2010).

 

 

Public collections include

ANZ Bank Collection, Melbourne

Artbank, Sydney

Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Auckland

Musée de Quai Branly, Paris

Museum of Contemporary Aboriginal Art, Utrecht, the Netherlands

National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane

Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth.

 

Literature

EVANS, Nicholas, Bruce JOHNSON McLEAN and Judith RYAN.  Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori, Fondation Cartier, Paris, 2022.