Badu Gili: A new daily Opera House sails lighting (Director’s Commentary by Rhoda Roberts AO)

Badu Gili: A new daily Opera House sails lighting (Director’s Commentary by Rhoda Roberts AO)


Welcome to Badu Gili:
“water light”. Our creators taught us how
to live with the land the sea and sky and
how to look after country. The late Lin Onus painted
of a time during cool weather. A spectacular beauty carpets the receding
flood waters of the billabongs. Covered in water lilies ranging from blue,
white to blues and pinks they become a habitat
for frogs. Today only a few hundred corroboree frogs
remain and their numbers are dwindling fast. For tens of thousands of years, our highland
peoples gathered each summer to feast on the bogong moth. At the same time, the frogs gathered for the
summer breeding season. In the forest, on the banks of the Murray
River, an ancestral home to Lin Onus, the reed beds along the river
provide a habitat. It’s a sanctuary-like quality
in the forest wetlands. Life, under the reflective surface of the
waters is alive. It’s an environment of great abundance where
all life seems to exist in balance with a natural order. The fish and the rainbow birds are featuring
the work of Arnhem Land. Rainbow birds travel with migratory connections
from the north to the south of the country. The work of Yaegl artist Frances Belle Parker
from Northern New South Wales depicts the river system of the north-east coast and its
abundance of floodplain soil. Rich in nutrients,
perfect for growing food. The estuaries provide an abundance of fish,
prawns, mussels and berries. The river features many large river islands
and her people were rounded up by the Aboriginal Protection board. and placed on these islands,
formalising the segregation of Aboriginal people. But, as her work depicts, it’s always a living
country. Always was and always will be. From the river systems that connect us as
country, to the work of the late Minnie Pwerle from Utopia, who was considered one of Australia’s
leading contemporary artists. We celebrate the abundance of paintings. They are depictions of stories, women’s dreaming’s,
for which Minnie Pwerle had cultural responsibility. The parallel lines in a pendulous outline
depict the body painting designs used in women’s ceremonies and celebrated through circular
shapes that symbolise traditional
foods such as the wild bush melon. Aboriginal seasonal changes depicts the time
of ceremony. When plants are in flower, which bush medicines
and foods are abundant and which animals are growing their newborn. Jenuarrie from the eastern coastal plains
people of Queensland paints of traditional sea-country connections. From the waterways and the reefs of the coast,
described by many as the rain forest of the sea. Sadly today with ocean temperatures rising
and the effects of bleaching, our totems and species are threatened. There are more than 70 clans along the east
coast of Queensland who use constellations
as navigation. And it’s here when they look up
to the southern skies. The Southern Cross is a significant cultural
meaning for many across the country and is often depicted as diamond-shaped designs. Australia is home to some of the oldest and
most prolific collections of rock art and petroglyphs in the world. These ancient artworks provide the stories
of our ancestral beings and our creation time. It’s our history. Rains across the desert bring to life savanna
country. Here, grasslands grow and people use the seeds
and regenerate the use of the spinifex. They bring to life the glue for their tools. From Badu Island in the Torres Straits, artist
Alick Tipoti depicts the meaningful symbols of the Torres Straits. It’s all about the land, sea
and sky of country. Torres Strait Islander traditional owner groups
are situated across the Torres Straits of seven islands. It’s here they travel by sea to connect to
the islands and outer reefs which they have done for thousands of years. Following their totems, the dolphins, the
turtles, the dugongs and of course the fishing. Canoes are used and carved, and the warriors’
pendants are of wood and shells. They too represent the totems that are worn
during ceremony times. When it’s a time of abundance and ritual. In the past, the fighting of warriors was
glorified. They enjoyed the esteem of their people. They were legendary heroes that appeared along
with weapons of war. The distinctive shapes of the Dharis, the
headdress of the Torres Strait, the masks, the drums and the other associated artefacts,
celebrate ceremony. When we blow the conch, it’s the waking up
of time as the warriors travel across country. Across the east coast, the Songlines map the
significance. From the Torres Straits in the north, to Tasmania
in the south. It’s a time to honour the ceremony grounds. It’s a time to thank for the abundance. The cycle begins each day. Everything is living and the knowledge of
nature is fundamental to the culture of our first peoples. Our landscape was shaped by spiritual ancestors
during the creation time. These ancestors were our first people. They journeyed across the estuaries, the land,
the sky and country, creating land forms, plants and animals. They brought with them laws that we have to
live by, including ceremony, language, kinship and environmental knowledge. Badu Gili highlights the cycle and our honouring
of sky and land. As we turn the trees upside down for ceremony,
the nutrients will return to Mother Earth and the trunk will tell Father Sky that we
are too continuing the cycle as we have for thousands of years. And just like the dawn, a new cycle begins.


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