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These giant fish hook sculptures will be Sydney's next major public artwork

Written by
Ben Neutze

Sydney is getting a new public artwork inspired by the fish hooks used by Gadigal women for thousands of years around Sydney Harbour. It's the central work in the City of Sydney's seven-part 'Eora Journey' public art program, which kicked off with Reko Rennie's 'Welcome to Redfern'. Lord mayor Clover Moore said the program is intended to "embed the stories of the First Peoples of Australia in the heart of Sydney".

The new artwork, called 'bara', is by Judy Watson, an award-winning, Queensland-based Waanyi artist who represented Australia at the 1997 Venice Biennale and won the Australia Council Visual Arts Award for 2015.

It will stand more than six metres tall and will have a shimmering finish inspired by the seashells found around the area. It's due to be installed by mid-2020 on the Tarpeian Precinct Lawn in the Royal Botanic Gardens, which sits above the historically significant Bennelong Point and has spectacular views of the harbour.

Bara shell hooks
Image courtesy the Australian Museum

The artwork is based on real fishhooks fashioned out of shells which have been discovered all around the harbour. They were used on fishing expeditions by Gadigal women, who would dangle the hooks from their nawi (canoes).

"The crescent shape is a beautiful expression of Aboriginal technology," Judy Watson says. "The bara are like a reflection of the moon in the sky, the bays in the harbour, the sails of the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge."

There's plenty to see on the streets of Sydney – see our hit-list of the city's best public art.

Still too cold to explore the great outdoors? Check out the best art exhibitions in Sydney this month.

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