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Stories of the sky to illuminate the sails of Sydney Opera House

Maria Marouchtchak -

The Sydney Opera House will unveil its latest projection, Badu Gili: Celestial, created by acclaimed First Nations artists Gail Mabo and Nikau Hindin on Friday.

Illuminating the iconic Eastern Bennelong sails, the six-minute animation will be showcased every night at sunset and various times throughout the evening until the end of December.

The artwork, which explores the ancient practices of celestial navigation, is a captivating fusion of contemporary art and tradition, celebrating First Nations culture and cultivating a sense of collective unity.

Proud Meriam woman Gail Mabo from the Mer Islands in the Torres Strait echoes her activist father's sentiment for a united world through her art.

"The sky is for everybody, the stories which connect people are different everywhere," she said.

"At a time when people forget to look up, I hope my work brings the sky and the best of the world closer for us to see."

Collaborating with Mabo, contemporary Māori artist Nikau Hindin expresses gratitude for the opportunity to share the culture and knowledge of her people on Gadigal Country.

She sees these expressions as essential to the healing of the past and as a means of standing in solidarity with other First Nations communities.

Image: Jaimi Joy.

"These ways of knowing and being are essential to the healing of our land and seas, and we are in solidarity with our older First Nation brothers and sisters here," said the proud Te Rarawa and Ngāpuhi woman from Aotearoa (New Zealand).

The dynamic expression of powerful First Nations storytelling is a collaborative effort between the Opera House, the Biennale of Sydney, and the Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain.

Biennale of Sydney CEO, Barbara Moore praises the talent of Mabo and Hindin to connect, educate, and celebrate First Nations culture through their creations.

"Representing generations of First Nations storytellers, knowledge holders, and artists, Gail Mabo and Nikau Hindin have invited us to learn from and be inspired by traditional technologies and histories," she said.

The digital animation will depict Mabo's star maps assembled from bamboo and cotton alongside Hindin's aute (bark cloth) adorned with decorative Māori motifs.

Explaining the significance of engaging national and international Indigenous art featured in the illumination, Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain First Nations Curatorial Fellow Tony Albert spoke on the intrinsic story that audiences will be privy to.

"Gail Mabo and Nikau Hindin share the rich history of Australian and Pacific navigation through generations of ancestral knowledge," he said.

"Both cultures have a long history of sea-bearing people who used the night sky and the stars as a navigation tool."

Albert praises the artists' work for looking at the past and infusing renewed vitality into stories which have been passed down for generations.

Image: Jaimi Joy.

The creative minds at Yarnology have played a pivotal role in breathing life into the animations, while the carefully crafted soundscape by Nigel Westlake, Te Kahureremoa Taumata, and Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes is set to deliver an enchanting and immersive experience.

The deep exploration of the two cultures will be a mesmerising celebration of First Nations culture taking place on Tubowgule (where the knowledge waters meet), a site which has long served as a gathering place for community, ceremony, and storytelling spanning thousands of years.

In accordance with its historical significance, since the launch of Badu Gili in 2017, it has become a pivotal meeting point for visitors and Sydneysiders to appreciate and recognise First Nations culture at the Opera House, which now towers over the location.

Badu Gilli: Celestial is free for all to enjoy and promises to be a spectacular showcase of First Nations culture and excellence this holiday season.

Additional information and screening times is available on the Sydney Opera House website.

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   Maria Marouchtchak   

Stories of the sky to illuminate the sails of Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House will unveil its latest projection, Badu Gili: Celestial, created by acclaimed First Nations artists Gail...
Maria Marouchtchak 15 Dec 2023