A look at Kaiadilt culture through Sally Gabori art

7 Jul 2017

ISSR Professor Paul Memmott, Director of the Aboriginal Environments Research Centre, provided historical expertise to Dulka Warngiid – Land of All, a retrospective QAGOMA exhibition celebrating the life of the late Kaiadilt artist, Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori. Prof Memmott shared a panel discussion about her life and work with Judith Ryan, Senior Curator of Indigenous Art, National Gallery of Victoria, and panel moderator Bruce McLean, Curator, Indigenous Australian Art, QAGOMA.

Prof Memmott has studied the Kaiadilt culture for more than four decades, and describes paintings of the Kaiadilt people as “relational”, reflecting both country and person.  “Her painting is a totally spontaneous response to paint and canvas and what was inside her mind about the country.” Prof Memmott cites the significance of this artwork as helping “to create a way that people can maintain their culture in a contemporary economic world.”

Sally’s art provides abstract depictions of her homeland (including Bentinck Island pictured below), which she and her family had spent 24 years foot-walking prior to being forcibly relocated to Mornington Island.  In the early 1980’s Prof Memmott assisted the Kaiadilt people with a legal framework and resources that enabled them to revisit their country. The years that Sally traversed Bentinck Island lended an intimate relationship with and knowledge of the surrounds, which she unleashed on canvas when she took up painting.

Sally Gabori did not begin creating this art until reaching her early 80’s.  Extraordinarily, she is an entirely self-taught artist with no exposure to modern art or art theory.  Sally was the first of her people to produce artwork; and it was she who inspired several other younger Kaiadilt women to take up painting as an avenue for expressing personal experiences of the land.

See the Aboriginal Art Directory for further information about the exhibition.

This exhibition is open at QAGOMA from 21 May 2016 – 28 August 2016.