HiveMind: Honeybees, Democracy & Me
Bees are celebrated the world over as pollinators, champions of biodiversity, and for turning highly prized nectar into glorious golden honey. But a little-known fact about the humble honeybee is that they model a type of ideal democratic practice when it comes to making collective decisions, and in this way they model a crucial part of what makes a fully flourishing democracy.
Contrary to established assumptions, honeybee hives aren’t run according to top-down authoritarian rules led by a queen bee. The critical decisions which a beehive faces are made collectively for the good of the hive and the colony.
This new exhibition uncovers the stories of beekeeping at Australia’s Parliament Houses, both old and new, and shares what we could learn from bees on collective decision making for democracy.
Historical objects and personal anecdotes tell the story of how Australia became one of the first countries worldwide to allow beekeeping on its Parliament House grounds after William Yates MP sought permission under the ruse of an April Fool’s joke in the 1970s.
The exhibition also features a large scale collaborative public art piece completed by members of the public at Old Parliament House during the Enlighten Festival in 2020. It features life advice and lessons arranged in a larger-than-life honeycomb inside the exhibition.