My mother’s family are from the Waanyi language group of North West Queensland. We are called ‘running water’ people. I have always been interested in bodies of water, ground water and springs...Judy Watson
Judy Watson’s ability to blend history, tradition, and stories into her creative practice results in multidimensional, culturally relevant, and thought-provoking works. This is incredibly apparent in her permanent installation at Sydney Harbour, bara.
A monumental pearlescent form emerges from the ground, taking shape as a bara: a type of handcrafted shell hook which has been used by the Eora Nation for thousands of years. Judy Watson’s bara (Monument for the Eora) tells of important First Nations’ narratives emerging from the site, creating a quiet place for rest and contemplation at the Tarpeian Lawn in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.
Commissioned by the City of Sydney, bara was delivered as part of the City’s public art program, “The Eora Journey”, that celebrates the living culture and heritage of Gadigal Country’s First Peoples. Throughout the entire design process, Watson consulted Gadigal Elders Uncle Allen Madden and Charles ‘Chicka’ Madden.
Bara are fish hooks that have been carved from turban shells, and have been used by Gadigal fisherwomen for thousands of years. The form of bara is based upon extensive research undertaken by Watson at the Australian Museum.
Carved from marble with a unique gleaming finish, the form of the six-metre-tall work becomes akin to the Opera House’s pearlescent sails and the coves of the harbour. The artwork softly emanates sunlight from around the harbour, engaging in dialogue with the glittering ocean water. At night, the work is lit to appear as if reflecting the light of the moon, with the prominent location of the artwork meaning it can be seen from various viewpoints across the harbour.
Find out more about bara and hear from Judy Watson at the City of Sydney’s public art program, City Art.
Image credit: Document Photography, Chris Southwood / City of Sydney, Rex Zou, Rachel See. Concept image: courtesy of artist.