A gleaming six-metre high monument inspired by shell fishing hooks handcrafted and used by local Aboriginal women for generations will soon take pride of place high on the lawns overlooking Sydney harbour.
Installation of the public artwork, bara, (the Gadigal word for shell hook) by Waanyi artist Judy Watson is underway, with the sculpture expected to be unveiled in July.
The artwork is a symbol of recognition and respect for the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation and the significant contributions First Nations people continue to make to the city of Sydney.
Commissioned by the City of Sydney and guided by the City’s former and current Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory panels and curatorial advisor Hetti Perkins, the team behind the project has worked for many years with Aboriginal community members and organisations, including the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council.
“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,” artist Judy Watson said.
“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.”
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said bara is the fourth public art project in the City’s Eora Journey program of celebrating the living culture and heritage of First Nations people in the city public domain.
“Despite the destructive impact of invasion, Aboriginal cultures endured and are now globally recognised as the world’s oldest continuous living cultures,” the Lord Mayor said.
“The City is committed to re-balancing the work of previous Australian governments, at all levels, by developing ways to make the world’s oldest continuing culture a visible and tangible presence in our City.
“bara, our monument to the Eora, will soon take pride of place on the Tarpeian Precinct Lawn above Dubbagullee (Bennelong Point). The work will sit as a powerful expression of Aboriginal cultures and a reminder of their significance for our nation now and for generations to come.
“Overlooking Sydney harbour, bara recognises the cultural significance of the site and the deep connection of Gadigal people to Country. It will be seen by thousands of Sydneysiders and visitors every day.”
bara has been developed with the support of The Royal Botanic Garden and Domain Trust and is located at Dubbagullee (Bennelong Point), overlooking Warrane (Circular Quay) and the harbour.