Mabel Juli, a Senior Giga woman from the East Kimberly region of Western Australia, traveled to the Sydney Opera House to see her artwork featured on its sails as part of Badu Gili- meaning ‘water light’ in traditional Gadigal language. This was the first time Juli had ever visited Sydney, accompanied alongside Nichola Dare, the owner of Aboriginal Contemporary in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, who is also one of Juli’s biggest advocates for art.
Mabel Juli’s work is created on canvas using earth-made colours which are so pigmented it’s hard to believe they originate from ash and ochre. Badu Gili features her pieces Derran – Black Cockatoo and Garnkiny doo Wardel (Moon and Star), which is an important Ngarranggarni (Dreaming) story exploring forbidden love, kinship and the origins of our mortality. Juli speaks proudly of her Dreaming stories which were told to her by her mother and father. She holds strong relationships and memory to these stories which resonate deeply within her artwork.
Juli had been quite vocal throughout the week when describing her excitement to see her artworks come to life in Badu Gili. Yesterday evening, when the sun had set and a hefty crowd had clustered around the eastern Bennelong sail, Badu Gili was projected onto the sails of the Sydney Opera House. Mabel Juli watched on, and it was incredible to watch her face light up when her artwork Derran – Black Cockatoo graced the Bennelong structure. Both Juli, and the surrounding crowd, were encapsulated by the flying black cockatoo. The piece danced across the sails, intermingling and showcasing her next artwork Garnkiny doo Wardel (Moon and Star), which dappled beautiful moons and stars upon the iconic venue. It was an extremely special moment to see Juli’s face fill with joy when viewing her artworks.
At the end of the show, Juli smiled and applauded the efforts of the other First Nations artists who also had their artworks showcased. She was extremely proud of her work and was even happier to see it come to life in Badu Gili. Mark Barrett and the Yakkazoo team continue to feel tremendous pride in Badu Gili, and witnessing Juli’s ecstatic reaction made this an extremely rewarding experience.
With many thanks to Sydney Opera House, Rhoda Roberts, Mabel Juli and Nichola Dare for a fantastic evening that we will always remember.
Photo credits: Liberty Carter, Manuela Strano and @aitcheg.