Photo by Jaimi Joy.

The Biennale of Sydney launches an exciting creative partnership with Sydney Opera House and the Fondation cartier pour l’art contemporain for a new chapter of Badu Gili: Celestial.  

A free, nightly, dynamic six-minute projection displaying the works of two celebrated First Nations artists, Gail Mabo and Nikau Hindin will appear on the Opera House’s Eastern Bennelong sails each night from Friday 15 December at sunset, at 9 pm, 9.30 pm, 10 pm and 10.30 pm.  

This vibrant new projection of powerful First Nations storytelling has been animated by Yarnology, soundscape developed by Nigel Westlake, Te Kahureremoa Taumata and Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes, will feature the work of Meriam artist, Gail Mabo from Mer Island in the Torres Strait, and artist Nikau Hindin, a Te Rarawa and Ngāpuhi woman from Aotearoa/New Zealand.  

Using Mabo’s star maps constructed out of bamboo and cotton, and Hindin’s Māori aute (bark cloth), the digital animation explores the ancient practices of celestial navigation across two cultures, with vibrant symbols and sounds bringing to life the stories of our skies and waterways.  

“The sky is for everybody, the stories which connect people are different everywhere, but the stars remain. 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,” said Gail Mabo (Mer Island) 

“It is an immense privilege as a manuhiri (guest) to this land, to adorn this space with Māori patterns that emerge from our creation stories and enduring textile practices of tukutuku and tāniko. As a bark cloth maker with a revivalists agenda and obligation to continue the geneology of toi Māori (Māori art forms), I hope my tūpuna would be proud of this new way of experiencing our patterns, sounds and worldview. Toi Māori is the materialisation of our ways of thinking and it is potent in the maintenance of our knowledge systems. 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 Nikau Hindin (Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi). 

Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain First Nations Curatorial Fellow Tony Albert explains, “through the support of the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain and the Biennale of Sydney, this year’s Badu Gili presented by the Sydney Opera House engages deeply within both national and international Indigenous Art. Gail Mabo (Piadram, Mer (Murray Island)), Torres Strait, and Nikau Hindin (Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi) share the rich history of Australian and Pacific navigation through generations of ancestral knowledge. Both cultures have a long history of sea bearing people who used the night sky and the stars as a navigation tool. These pathways interweave in cross cultural navigation and knowledge to reflect on tradition Indigenous technologies. Both these important artists look at the past to understand and connect with the future.”  

The premiere of Badu Gili: Celestial will take place on Friday 15 December at sunset. Find out more information here: