About the artist
Fiona Foley is a Badtjala woman from Fraser Island, curator, writer. academic and an internationally recognised contemporary artist. She regularly exhibits in Australia and internationally.
Foley graduated from the Darlinghurst establishment, then known as East Sydney Tech, in 1983 and completed her PhD with Griffith University in 2017. The thesis examined Queensland's legislation, 'The Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act' from 1897.
Foley is a founding member of the Boomalli Aboriginal Artist Co-operative, which includes members Tracey Moffatt, Michael Riley, Bronwyn Bancroft, Brenda Croft and Euphemia Bostock. Foley's work explicitly relates to historical research, throwing light on and constantly questioning race relations, cultural assumptions, sexuality and the reality of Aboriginal lives in Queensland around the turn of the 20th century and reconnecting it to the present.
About the work
Commissioned for Prahran Square, this installation celebrates bees for their significance in our global ecosystem. Its title ‘murnalong’ is a local Indigenous Boon Wurrung word meaning bee. Throughout her practice, Foley highlights commonalities across cultures. Historically an important food source for Indigenous Australians, bees remain crucially important to our shared future. Aboriginal nations across Australia would collect what they used to call a sugar bag, the sweet honey from the hives of the bees. Many plants depend on bees for pollination, and they are widely considered symbols for society and community. Here, the artist has depicted native stingless bees - one of over 1,500 species in Australia.
Did you know?
Foley has recently turned her attention towards the Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act. She researched the 1897 Queensland Act for her PhD, exploring how opium was used to control Aboriginal lives and labour. Foley's photographic and sculpture series Horror has a Face includes a series of breastplates with historic quotes inscribed on them and images of opium dens in the 19th century.
We acknowledge we are meeting on the Traditional Lands of the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung and Bunurong peoples of the East Kulin Nations and pay our respect to their Elders past, present and emerging.
We extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We acknowledge their living connection to the Country, their relationship with the land and all living things extending back tens of thousands of years.