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Monumental artwork to honour First Peoples of Australia

Pictured: NSW Governor David Hurley, artist Judy Watson, Lord Mayor Clover Moore and curatorial advisor Hetti Perkins. Photo Credit: Joseph Mayers

Monumental artwork to honour First Peoples of Australia

Monumental artwork to honour First Peoples of Australia

Governor David Hurley and Lord Mayor Clover Moore have unveiled plans for a major new artwork overlooking Sydney Harbour that will celebrate and honour the First Peoples of Australia.

bara by Aboriginal artist Judy Watson will take pride of place on the Tarpeian Precinct Lawn above Dubbagullee, also known as Bennelong Point. The work will acknowledge clans of the Eora Nation and Elders past and present.

Commissioned by the City of Sydney, the artwork is modelled after the crescent shapes of ‘bara’ – traditional fish hooks crafted and used by Gadigal women for thousands of years. The crescent shapes also recall the curve of the moon, the natural coves of Sydney Harbour and the sails of the Sydney Opera House. The work will have a gleaming finish reminiscent of local seashells and stand more than six metres tall.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore says bara is a tribute to the resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and will become one of the most significant artworks in Sydney’s history. “Our community has made clear that they wanted meaningful recognition of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories in the public domain,” the Lord Mayor says.

“Alongside our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel and communities, we created the Eora Journey, which includes a seven-part public art program to embed the stories of the First Peoples of Australia in the heart of Sydney. bara will look upon the Eora Nation and honour the enduring strength and resilience of the Gadigal people.”

Artist Judy Watson was the 2015 recipient of the Australia Council’s visual arts award and her work is held in major Australian and international collections. She has exhibited widely over the past 25 years, including representing Australia at the Venice Biennale in 1997. “My concept for bara reimagines ancient gathering spaces where people sat by fires on the headlands and feasted. Looking down they would see the nawi (canoes) with fishing families crisscrossing the harbour, scarifying the water with their passage,” Watson says.

“Bara shell hooks are still being unearthed around these waterways, making themselves known to archaeologists and the community, reasserting the Aboriginal presence and history of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. bara will provide a quiet space for ceremony, reflection and contemplation in a busy and ever changing city. It will be inspiring and educational, beautiful and transformative.”

The City will work closely with Watson, cultural custodians and the community to deliver bara, as well as undertake a comprehensive community engagement program in partnership with the Tribal Warrior Aboriginal Corporation. The work is expected to be unveiled by mid-2020.

For more information about the Eora Journey, click here.

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