A major artwork is being planned in Sydney by city authorities to celebrate and honour the First Peoples of Australia.
Announced recently by governor David Hurley and lord mayor Clover Moore, the proposed 6-metre tall artwork, bara by Aboriginal artist Judy Watson will acknowledge clans of the Eora Nation and Elders past and present.
‘Bara’ refers to the traditional crescent-shaped fish hooks crafted and used by Gadigal women for thousands of years. The crescent shapes in the new public art recall the ‘bara’ as well as the curve of the moon, the natural coves of Sydney Harbour, and the sails of the Sydney Opera House.
The artwork was announced recently in the presence of Elders of Sydney’s Indigenous community, by Lord Mayor Clover Moore, His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret'd), Governor of New South Wales, artist Judy Watson and Elder Uncle Charles (Chicka) Madden.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore described bara as a tribute to the resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. One of the most significant artworks in Sydney’s history, bara represents the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories in the public domain.
According to the Lord Mayor, the artwork is part of 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.
The positioning of the public artwork overlooking Sydney Harbour is also significant as it honours the role and importance of Aboriginal women, who fished in the harbour from their ‘nawi’ (canoes) with ‘bara’, the Gadigal word for shell hook, the Lord Mayor added.
A recipient of the Australia Council’s visual arts award in 2015, artist Judy Watson has exhibited widely over the past 25 years, including representing Australia at the Venice Biennale in 1997, and showing her work in major Australian and international collections.
The City’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel has been involved in the Eora Journey public art program since its inception, providing valuable input to the artist brief and supporting the project at key stages.
Co-chair of the City’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel, Tracey Duncan says the artwork will not only look amazing but also honour the significance of the site.
Curatorial advisor, Hetti Perkins, said Sydney has one of the world’s most beautiful harbours and the countless engravings on the foreshore testify to the world’s oldest continuous cultural tradition.
Following an extensive process, Judy Watson was selected by a 10-member independent expert panel based on her proposal. The artist and her team at Brisbane-based urban arts company UAP consulted with local Elders Uncle Allen and Charles (Chicka) Madden, the City’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel and the City’s Public Art Advisory Panel in developing her concept.
Bara is the fourth public art project in the Eora Journey and is part of the City’s public art program, City Art.