People are Legends – Aboriginal Poems.
St.Lucia, University of Queensland Press, 1978. 8°. 70 pages. Softcover-Edition. Excellent condition with only minor signs of external wear.
Kevin Gilbert was born in Condobolin, New South Wales in 1933, of the Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi peoples. He left school after fifth grade at age fourteen, and worked in itinerant seasonal jobs. In 1957 Gilbert was sentenced to life imprisonment after a domestic dispute in which his wife was killed. During the fourteen years that he spent in some of the worst jails in Australia he strove to educate himself, honing his artistic talents to become a prominent poet, playwright, printmaker (Gilbert was Australia’s first recognised Aboriginal printmaker) and photographer.
Gilbert wrote the play The Cherry Pickers in 1968 and first exhibited his work in 1970 at the Arts Council Gallery, Sydney, in an exhibition organised by the Australia Council. He was granted parole in 1971. Gilbert was instrumental in the establishment of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy opposite Old Parliament House, Canberra the following year, and wrote Because a White Man’ll Never Do It in 1973. His book Living Black: Blacks Talk to Kevin Gilbert (1977) was awarded the National Book Council Book Award in 1978.
Gilbert was Chairperson of the Treaty ‘88 campaign, which fought for the establishment of a treaty enshrining Aboriginal rights and sovereignty. In this capacity he also organised the touring photography exhibition Inside Black Australia, in which his own work was included. In 1988 Gilbert was awarded the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s Human Rights Award for Literature for his anthology of Aboriginal poetry, Inside Black Australia, which he returned; feeling he could not accept such an award while his people were denied human rights in their own land. His work was included in Narragunnawali at the Canberra Contemporary Art Space in 1989. In 1992 he received a Australian Artists Creative Fellowship from the Australia Council. Kevin Gilbert died in 1993. The Kevin Gilbert Memorial Trust was established in 1993 to further his aspirations.
Gilbert’s work has been included posthumously in numerous exhibitions including the touring exhibition New Tracks – Old Land in 1993. In 1994 his work was also exhibited in Urban Focus: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art from the Urban Areas of Australia at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra and Tyerabarrbowaryaou II, which was shown as part of the 5th Havana Biennial, Cuba that same year. In 1995 Gilbert’s poetry Black from the Edge was awarded the RAKA award, and his children’s book Me and Mary Kangaroo was shortlisted for the 1995 Australian Multicultural Award. He communicated a vision for the way forward: “only those who love the land and love justice will ultimately hold the land”. (gov.au)