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Badu Gili Celestial Lighting of the Sails

Daily from sunset, 6.30pm, 7pm, 7.30pm & 8pm

Badu Gili - meaning ‘water light’ in the language of the traditional owners of Bennelong Point, the Gadigal - is a free daily experience that explores First Nations stories in a spectacular six-minute projection on the Opera House’s eastern Bennelong sails.

Watch the sails illuminate with Badu Gili: Celestial, a new projection celebrating the work and stories of two female First Nations artists from Australia and New Zealand, created in collaboration between the Opera House, Biennale of Sydney and the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain.

Directions on where to view Badu Gili: Celestial.

Celebrating First Nations culture

As a celebration of the rich history and contemporary vibrancy of Australia’s First Nations culture, Badu Gili continues the traditions of Bennelong Point, formerly known as Tubowgule ('where the knowledge waters meet'), a gathering place for community, ceremony and storytelling for thousands of years.

Badu Gili: Celestial, the vibrant new animation of powerful First Nations storytelling features the work of Meriam artist, Gail Mabo from Mer Island in the Torres Strait, and international First Nations 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. 

A soundscape accompanies the animation, with powerful music by Nigel Westlake supporting Mabo's work, and Te Kahureremoa Taumata (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Tūwharetoa) and Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Rangitihi) complementing Hindin's.  

An important pillar of the Opera House’s year-round First Nations program, Badu Gili is an essential Sydney cultural experience for both visitors and the local community that aims to foster and celebrate a shared sense of belonging for all Australians.

View the Sydney Opera House Reconciliation Action Plan

Badu Gili: Celestial is presented in collaboration with the Biennale of Sydney and the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain.

Meet the artists

Gail Mabo Meriam Mir, Mer Island, Torres Strait. Language group: Piadram

Gail Mabo is a Meriam artist from Mer Island in the Torres Strait. Her multidisciplinary practice stretches from dance to visual arts and is always grounded in Indigenous cultural knowledges. Mabo’s star maps, constructed out of bamboo and cotton, demonstrate her people’s complex understanding of celestial navigation and have come to define her artistic practice.

Image credit: Erin Ricardo


Nikau Hindin Ngai Tūpoto, Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi

Nikau Hindin is a contemporary Māori artist deeply engaged in the renewal of the Māori aute (bark cloth) making tradition in Aotearoa New Zealand. Unlike other bark lineages across Te Moana Nui a Kiwa (The Great Ocean), the Māori bark cloth technique that Hindin employs was last practiced in Aotearoa more than a century ago when the paper mulberry tree that is the main source of bark was almost made extinct.

Including motifs from Māori culture as well as other designs, architecture, and textile traditions, Hindin also uses the bark as an instrument to express another Indigenous technological lineage, the kites or manu. Manu means both kite and bird in Māori, and while often used for recreation, they were also used for divination, communication, and as a guide to new auspicious lands to settle on.

Image credit: Holly Burgess

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