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New harbour walk and artworks honour Aboriginal history and culture

Wiradjuri curator Emily McDaniel has won an inaugural Committee for Sydney award for up-and-coming leaders for her work in creating Yananurala, a new nine-kilometre walk highlighting Sydney’s Aboriginal history and culture through the use of curated artworks and installations from Woolloomooloo to Pirrama (Pyrmont).  

The Yananurala walk starts at the new bara sculpture, a gleaming six-metre high monument inspired by shell fishing hooks handcrafted and used by local Aboriginal women for generations will soon take pride of place high on the lawns overlooking Sydney harbour.

The public artwork bara, (the Gadigal word for shell hook) by Waanyi artist Judy Watson is a symbol of recognition and respect for the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation and the significant contributions First Nations people continue to make to the city of Sydney.

Commissioned by the City of Sydney (CofS) and guided by the City’s former and current Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory panels and curatorial advisor Hetti Perkins, the team behind the project has worked for many years with Aboriginal community members and organisations, including the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council.

“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,” artist 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.

“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.”

bara has been developed with the support of The Royal Botanic Garden and Domain Trust and is located at Dubbagullee (Bennelong Point), overlooking Warrane (Circular Quay) and the harbour.

In mid-October, a CofS spokesperson said, “The planned community picnic and ceremony to unveil the artwork bara has been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Given the significance of the work, we will hold a culturally meaningful event when it is safe to do so.”

From the Gadigal language, Yananurala translates to Walking on Country and the new walk will share Aboriginal perspectives and stories through a series of artworks and installations from Pirrama (Pyrmont) to Woolloomooloo, including Barangaroo, Ta-ra (Dawes Point) and Warrane (Circular Quay).

Curator Emily McDaniel said, “The walk is an Acknowledgement of Country in its truest, most ancient form,”

“As you walk the shoreline, interact with public art and stories, hear whispers of language and place your feet in the water, you are introducing yourself to this Country so that it will remember you. This is about you seeing what we see, feeling what we feel and hearing what we hear.”

Wiradjuri woman, Emily McDaniel, won a Committee for Sydney award in September for her work as curator of the Yananurala walk. Photo: Katherine Griffiths / City of Sydney

The Sydney Awards, presented in September, celebrate people whose efforts make the city special.

“Emily has curated a powerful and evocative journey along the harbour foreshore that brings a rich diversity of Aboriginal voices and stories to life, and to the fore,” said Lord Mayor Clover Moore.

“Her sensitive, thoughtful curation ensures Yananurala respectfully celebrates in a visible and tangible way the history and presence here of the world’s oldest living culture.

“The result will be a transformative experience for locals and visitors, featuring public art and installations at significant harbourside locations to tell a story of culture, strength, survival and continuity.”

Signposts will be installed in coming months, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and designers invited to create the first series of audio and text-based installations early next year.

Yananurala is part of the public art component of the City’s Eora Journey curated by Hetti Perkins to honour the heritage and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the public domain.

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Read more about Yananurala and listen to Emily McDaniel describe the walk here. Visit sydneybarani.com.au for more on the Aboriginal history of Sydney.

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