bara sculpture
An artist’s impression of bara. Image – City of Sydney
  • Instillation is underway for a new shell fish hook inspired sculpture in Sydney
  • The monument is designed to celebrate the history and culture of local Gadigal people
  • World renowned artist Judy Watson is behind the artwork

An impressive new monument overlooking the Sydney harbour bridge will soon be unveiled. The sculpture was inspired by shell fish hooks and has been designed to honour local Aboriginal women who used them for generations.

The sculpture is hoped to be a symbol of recognition and respect for the local Gadigal people of the Eora Nation – acknowledging the meaningful contributions First Nations people continue to make in Sydney.

The six-metre high artwork – bara – is named after the Gadigal word for shell hook.

Installation commissioned by the City of Sydney is currently underway with the official reveal set for July.

An artist’s impression of bara. Image – City of Sydney

The monument is designed by world-renowned Waanyi artist Judy Watson.

“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.”

Judy Watson

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,” 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.

Historically, fish was a staple food for the local people in Sydney area. Women made fishing lines using fibres from trees, animal fur or grass. Shells were honed into the fish hooks that have become the inspiration for this artwork.

Interestingly the women did not use bait to catch fish, rather they spat chewed shellfish on the water’s surface.

Shell fish hooks inspired the bara artwork. Image – Paul Ovenden, Australian Museum

The installation process has been guided by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory panels and curatorial advisor Hetti Perkins.

The bara sculpture is the fourth public art project in Sydney’s ‘Eora Journey’ according to Lord Mayor Clover Moore. The program is intended to celebrate local First Nations people’s living culture and heritage.

“Despite the destructive impact of invasion, Aboriginal cultures endured and are now globally recognised as the world’s oldest continuous living cultures,” 

Lord Mayor Clover Moore

“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.”

The Royal Botanic Garden and Domain Trust have contributed to the monument’s development.

The sculpture will be located at Dubbagullee (Bennelong Point) and will overlook Warrane (Circular Quay) and the harbour.

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