Sally Gabori, also known as Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori, was a remarkable Indigenous Australian artist whose late bloom onto the art scene was as spectacular as the vivid hues that danced across her canvases.
Born in 1924 on Bentinck Island, part of the South Wellesley Group in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Queensland, Sally's story is a symphony of resilience, cultural memory, and the transformative power of art.
Imagine a place where the sea meets the sky in an endless horizon, where the land holds stories older than time itself. This was Sally's home, a place deeply ingrained in the heart and spirit of her work. For much of her life, Sally Gabori lived traditionally with her family, her artistry hidden like a precious gem, waiting for the moment to reveal its brilliance. It wasn't until her senior years, around the age of 81, that she began to paint, yet her late start did nothing to dim the vibrancy of her vision.
Sally's art is a celebration of her homeland, a dazzling array of abstract landscapes that sing with the colors of the sea, the sky, and the Australian earth. Her work transcends the mere visual, inviting viewers to feel the pulse of her world, to stand on the shores of Bentinck Island and see through her eyes. Each stroke, each choice of color, is a testament to her deep connection to her culture and the land of her ancestors.
Exhibition of the works of Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori presented at the Fondation Cartier – Paris – 2022
But Sally Gabori's art is more than just a personal journey; it is a bridge between worlds. In her canvases, the traditional and the contemporary merge in a jubilant explosion of color, challenging perceptions of Indigenous art and storytelling. She brought the stories of the Kaiadilt people to the global stage, her works celebrated in galleries and collections around the world, from Australia to Paris and beyond.
Her technique, characterised by bold, free-flowing strokes and an uninhibited use of color, broke away from conventional narratives about Indigenous art. Gabori's paintings, such as the celebrated "Dibirdibi Country" series, are not just landscapes; they are maps of memory and emotion, each canvas a chapter in the story of her life and her people.
Dibirdibi Country, 2008. Synthetic polymer paint on linen, 198 × 304 cm National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.
As we reflect on Sally Gabori's legacy, we see a narrative of extraordinary achievement against the odds. Her journey challenges us to reconsider the boundaries of art and the power of cultural expression. In her work, we find a universal language of beauty and connection, a reminder of the capacity for creativity to emerge triumphant, regardless of the hour of its awakening.
Sally Gabori passed away in 2015, but her legacy endures, vibrant and resonant as ever. Her life and art stand as a beacon to aspiring artists everywhere, a testament to the idea that it is never too late to express one's voice, to paint one's dreams onto the canvas of the world. In celebrating Sally Gabori, we celebrate the indomitable spirit of creation, a reminder that art, in its most profound form, is an act of love and remembrance, a colorful bridge spanning the past, present, and future.