Important Australian Indigenous Art
22 March 2023


(c.1924 - 2015)

synthetic polymer paint on linen

198.5 x 302.5 cm

bears inscription verso: artist's name, title, medium, Mornington Island Arts and Crafts cat. 3359-L-SG-0708 and Alcaston Gallery cat. AK14614

$60,000 – $80,000
Sold for $251,591 (inc. BP) in Auction 73 - 22 March 2023, Melbourne

Mornington Island Arts and Crafts, Mornington Island, Queensland
Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne
Private collection, Melbourne, acquired from the above in 2008


Sally Gabori: Nyinyilki Country - Nyinyilki is where we catch Barramundi, Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne, 13 January - 21 February 2009 (illus. on front cover of exhibition invitation)

Catalogue text


Sally Gabori at Brisbane Festival, 2011
courtesy Brisbane Festival and Alcaston Gallery

Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori’s paintings are a tribute to the country on Bentinck Island, a small sparsely vegetated rise of land in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria where she grew up living off the natural abundance of the surrounding ocean and estuaries in the traditions of the Kaiadilt. In 1948, following a series of natural disasters, Gabori along with the other inhabitants of Bentinck Island, were forced to relocate to Gununa on nearby Mornington Island.
Almost sixty years later in 2005, Gabori, then in her early eighties, was invited to participate with other Kaiadilt in an art workshop at the Mornington Island Art Centre. After a few visits, it became clear that her early paintings – often crude abstract depictions of the myriad of fish found in the surrounding estuaries and sea – offered a unique and colourful expression of her personal and family stories spawned from the memories of her early years on Bentinck Island. Her artistic repertory consisted of six main subjects, all of them places on Bentinck Island included Mirdidingki (the place of her birth); Makarrki (her brother King Alfred’s country); Thundi (her father’s country); Dibirdibi (her husband’s country); and as depicted in this painting, Nyinyilki (an important natural site on the south-eastern corner of Bentinck Island). By painting each place over and over, she relived memories of the people and places she loved. As Cara Pinchbeck states, ‘Gabori’s works are a celebration of her homeland and illustrate a deep connection to country that has not diminished through separation. From her very earliest works, she has depicted aspects of her own country as well as that of her brother, father and husband – including both geographical aspects of the landscape as well as the wildlife, specifically sea-life which is central to the landscape.’1

A monumental recollection of her homeland on the south-eastern corner of Bentinck Island, Ninjilki, 2008 records country held dear by Gabori and her family. Distinguished by a permanent freshwater lagoon, it is a place where she remembered catching barramundi, or scooping up fresh water in baler and trumpet shells.2 A large sandy bay joins this stretch of coast to Barthayi, in the south and to the east, a long rocky spit creates safe water where Dugongs proliferate. In 2008, following the Kaiadilt land rights victory, an outstation was established here, often referred to as ‘main base’ where Gabori and her family returned to when possible.3 Here opaque layers of milky white pigment cover a soft yellow base, interspersed with strong vertical crevasses of black and a burst of vivid pink to the upper right. Gabori’s strong gestural mark-making, is an expression of her love for the landscape of her country but also belongs squarely in the realm of contemporary painting.

1. Pinchbeck, C., ‘Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori’ in unDisclosed, 2nd National Indigenous Art Triennial, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2012, p. 64
2. Ryan, J., ‘Unprecedented: The Art of Sally Gabori’, in Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori, Foundation Cartier pour L’art contemporain, Paris, 2022, p. 89
3. McLean, B., ‘Dulka Warngiid; The Whole World’ in Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori Dulka Warngiid; Land of All, Queensland Art Gallery I Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2016, p. 24