Gudjabul: Native sweet bee lands at Yarrabilba

Gudjabul by Fiona Foley

The latest public art installation at Yarrabilba, by renowned indigenous artist Fiona Foley, was recently unveiled. The sculptural piece is called GUDJABUL, which in the local Yugambeh language means native sweet bee.

The piece comprises six cast aluminium bees on arced poles, with three bees hovering over the Darlington Parklands wetlands and a further three bees clustered adjacent to Yarrabilba Drive.

Fiona Foley is a Badtjala woman from Fraser Island, curator, writer and academic as well as an internationally recognised contemporary artist.

“If I work in other people’s country I like to be inclusive of their culture. The best way to do that is to talk about some commonalities between the cultures,” Ms Foley said.

“Aboriginal nations across Australia would collect what they used to call a sugar bag, that sweetness from the hives of the bees. We would collect native honey as a source of food.”

Lendlease’s cultural heritage consultants, Jabree Ltd, said the native sweet bee produces approximately one kilogram of honey per year, and their honey was a highly regarded food source for Aboriginal people.

“The local Yugambeh people used a grass they called ‘bai-bai’, in which they rolled, soaked, dried and then used as a sponge to soak up and carry the ‘goodja’ (honey),” the Jabree Ltd representative said.

“The local eucalyptus species would have been utilised by the native sweet bees for their gum blossom and their hollows acted as nest sites.”

In deciding on her piece for Yarrabilba, Ms Foley said the ideas came quite quickly, and on her research to the wetlands she had two different works in mind.

“The bees were a way for me to create a work where I could use the local language from the Yugambeh people to name the sculpture,” Ms Foley said.

The cast bees are complemented by a playful ground plane design with bees sandblasted into the pathway, providing an opportunity for playful interaction and inspiring investigation of the native sweet bee.

“The bees look magical, looking at all six of them lined up, they are real little gems all with their own personalities; if you look closely their wings are different, their antennae have different angles and they all have different characters,” Ms Foley said.

“They (the bees) are joyful and I smile every time I think of them. I hope that joy comes to other people living in the Yarrabilba community.”