Brisbane-based Aboriginal artist Judy Watson has been commissioned to make a major public artwork for the City of Sydney’s Eora Journey project which seeks to acknowledge clans of the Eora Nation and honour the First Peoples of Australia.
Titled bara, Watson’s pair of six-metre high carved stone sculptures will overlook the harbour from Dubbagullee (Bennelong Point). Bara is the name for traditional fish hooks which were made by Gadigal women for millennia.
“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 explained. “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.”
When announcing Watson’s selection for the commission, City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said, “Our community has made clear that they wanted meaningful recognition of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories in the public domain. 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.”
Watson’s bara is due to be completed in mid-2020. It will be the fourth work in the seven part program. Previous public artworks in the Eora Journey project include Reko Rennie’s Welcome to Redfern mural, 2013; Nicole Foreshew’s temporary projected work, born in darkness before dawn, 2013-2014; and Tony Albert’s monument to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service men and women in Hyde Park, YININMADYEMI Thou didst let fall, 2015.