Ghost Nets of the Ocean consists of woven sculptures made by artists from Erub Arts Collaborative on Erub (Darnley) Island in the Torres Strait Islands. Erub (Darnley) Island is one of the most remote communities in Australia, located 160km north east of Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula.
Artists from the island have transformed ghost nets (abandoned fishing nets) to create a dynamic installation featuring marine animals and environments. Ghost nets drift with the ocean currents and tides, continuing to catch fish, trapping and killing marine fauna in the process. Indigenous rangers, who care for their country in Northern Australia, clean up the nets and rescue entangled wildlife. The nets are then used by the artists to create works of art, bringing to light the irreparable harm that discarded nets cause to local marine life.
These works share the artists’ concern for the loss of marine life and environmental damage caused by rogue nets. Importantly this project helps to raise awareness of the devastation that ghost nets cause.
‘We are all connected by the world’s oceans’.
- Introduce your students to Erub Arts Collective using the video below.
- Find Erub Island on a map of Australia. How far away is it from where you live? Why do you think ghost nets are such a problem in this area?
- Ghost nets are fishing nets that have been lost, discarded or simply abandoned at sea and left to drift with the ocean currents. Why do you think these fishing nets are called ghost nets? Find out what materials ghost nets are made from, how they are constructed and used by commercial fishing boats. Discuss some of the reasons why the nets end up as marine debris and are consequently damaging to marine life. Brainstorm some potential solutions to these issues.
- Make a list of all the items you have come into contact with, used or eaten today. Document what these things are made from or what your food items were wrapped in. Identify which items can be recycled. As a class discuss reasons why it is important to recycle.
- Remove ghost nets from the coastline to prevent their destructive cycle.
- Record information about the nets, their location, their abundance and their size to aid research.
- Rescue any animals found entangled.
- Recycle and encourage the making of ghost net art and other products rather than sending them to landfill or burning them.
- Raise awareness about the ghost net issue through education, art projects, community activities and the media.
- Research the source of ghost nets, their movements and impacts to help aid prevention of this issue.
- What do the colours used in the sculptures remind you of? Describe what the materials might feel like.
- Look closely at the patterns on the sculptures. What shapes can you see?
- Imagine you are one of the jelly fish like those on display in the Studio. Use your body to move like a jelly fish.
- Find out what materials ghost nets are made from, how they are constructed and used by commercial shing boats. Discuss some of the reasons why the nets end up as marine debris and are consequently damaging to marine life. Brainstorm some potential solutions to these issues.
- Like ghost nets, other rubbish that is not disposed of correctly can also end up in our rivers and oceans. Plastic bags, bottles and straws are common items found in our waterways. How might this debris impact the ocean, animals and human beings? Brainstorm some additional uses for a plastic drink bottle other than as a vessel to hold liquids.
- Most ghost nets are made from nylon, which is a type of plastic. This material ensures the nets are strong, but it also means it can take between 30–40 years to begin to break down. Research materials which are biodegradable. Make a list of other materials that the nets could be made from and document the pros and cons of using these alternative materials.
- While Ghost Nets from the Ocean communicates the deadly destruction caused by the ghost nets, the act of making these works of art provides opportunities to exchange knowledge, transfer skills and work in collaboration with community members. The Tjanpi Desert Weavers from across the desert regions of Australia create figurative sculptures and vessels using dry desert grasses and other materials. Write a comparative essay titled ‘Artists challenge us to understand and engage with the world’ with reference to the Erub Arts collaborative and the Tjanpi Desert Weavers. Discuss and compare their use of materials, techniques, ideas and connection to Country.
- Investigate the role of Indigenous rangers in other locations across Australia. In small groups, select a region and investigate the specific role of the rangers in this area. What are the main concerns in this region and how are rangers managing the impact? Write a letter to the Australian Government highlighting the benefits of continuing the Indigenous Rangers program throughout Australia.
- Investigate the role of ocean gyres which are circulating ocean currents. Locate the 5 key gyres on a world map. What other countries do you think might have similar problems with marine debris?
- What role do turtles, jellyfish and hammerhead sharks have in Australia’s ecosystem? Find Indigenous, common and scientific names for these marine animals.
- The Ghost Nets of the Ocean sea creatures have been made by hand using coiling, weaving, felting and binding techniques. Find evidence of these techniques. Locate another work of art on display in the Gallery made with natural or synthetic fibres. What techniques have been used? What materials are these works of art made from? Compare this work of art to Ghost Nets of the Ocean and consider how the work was constructed, the materials used and the artist’s ideas.
TIP Look at the work by Shirley Minyingarla, Yvonne Koolmatrie or Tjanpi Desert Weavers.
- Ghost Nets of the Ocean has been described as ‘uplifting and beautiful’. However, the work addresses the destructive and deadly impact of ghost nets. Discuss aspects of the sculptures that are both beautiful and deadly? Why is this so?
- Raising awareness is one of the Six R’s that GhostNets Australia identify as things we can do to create change. Explain how Erub Arts Collaborative have used works of art to raise awareness.
- Discuss the role of art centres, like Erub Arts Collaborative, in engaging community and sustaining culture.
- While Ghost Nets of the Ocean communicate the deadly destruction caused by the ghost nets, the act of making these works of art provides opportunities to exchange knowledge, transfer skills and work in collaboration with community. The Tjanpi Desert Weavers from across the desert regions of Australia, create figurative sculptures and vessels using dry desert grasses and other materials. Write a comparative essay titled ‘Artists challenge us to understand and engage with the world’ with reference to the Erub Arts Collaborative and the Tjanpi Desert Weavers. Discuss and compare their use of materials, techniques, ideas and connection to Country.
- Fishing is a necessary part of life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as well as a matter of cultural practice. In the past, traditional coastal fishing occurred on the beach or in shallow pools with fish traps used to catch fish in creeks, which were made from natural fibres, such as twined pandanus palm leaf. New technologies and an increase in commercial fisheries has meant that fishing and marine resource management for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has changed over time. Investigate traditional fish traps, nets and baskets. List some of the advantages and disadvantages of using these methods compared to commercial fishing practices. Consider both cultural and environmental sustainability as well as its functionality in terms of cost, strength and convenience.
TIP Look at the Walabi (fishing net) by Jill Djalburrburr, Fishing basket by Mary Marabamba or Large mustard eel trap #1 by Jenni Kemarre Martiniello in the Gallery’s collection online.
- Select your favourite creature in Ghost Nets of the Ocean. Write a fictional story about your animal. Discover some interesting facts about your animal to include in your narrative.
- Create a jellyfish tentacle by plaiting recycled strips of plastic. Attach the plastic plaits to the end of a plastic bottle to create a collaborative class jellyfish.
- Artists are keen storytellers. Using Ghost Nets of the Ocean as inspiration, create an illustration that tells a story about your favourite sea creature on display.
- As a class create a large mind map about Ghost Nets of the Ocean. Use the words on your mind map to create a poem in response to the ghost net issue.
- Design and create a tiny turtle using coiling, wrapping, weaving and binding techniques as used in Ghost Nets of the Ocean. Alternatively, you may like to create a coral habitat for your turtle. Using your tiny turtle as your main character, write a story and create an animation.
- You probably already recycle at home and at school. However, many of our everyday items can end up as marine debris. Draw an illustrated diagram of how rubbish from your lunchbox might end up in the ocean if not disposed of properly. Document some ways this may affect marine life and humans.
- Find colourful and vivid images of coral in the Great Barrier Reef. Create a drawing or lino print inspired by the patterns and colour found in coral.
- Design an environmentally friendly method for catching fish by commercial fisheries. Consider form, function and sustainability. Investigate the costs, impact on the environment and the lifecycle of the product e.g concept – design – development – manufacturing – market – use and end-life.
- 90% of the net debris that ends up on the North Australian coastline originates from the Arafura Sea, which is one of the most productive fisheries in the world. Identify an environmental problem in your community or school. Investigate your issue and list some questions you may have. Share these with your class. Create a work of art using recycled materials that responds to this issue. In your artist statement propose some innovative ways we can reduce this problem.
- The most common plastic items that end up in the ocean consist of single use plastic items such as straws, food wrappers, bottle tops and drink bottles. Using recycled plastic items, create a work of art that responds to the single-use plastic problem. TIP Look at El Anatsui, John Dahlsen, Gabriel Orozco and Alison McDonald for additional inspiration.
- Coiling is an ancient technique, one which has been used by Aboriginal people over generations to make reed and grass stalk mats and baskets. Research different weaving practices used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. Using some of the techniques you have discovered, make a sculpture using recycled soft plastics.
- Read the recent news articles titled Plastic and how it affects our oceans, Whale drags fishing trap more than 1700km from Tasmania to Port Macquarie and Nearly Every Seabird on Earth is Eating Plastic. Consider what the state of the ocean will be in 2050. Imagine it is 2050 and you have been asked to write a newspaper article reporting on the state of the oceans. Begin by brainstorming a list of potential outcomes for our oceans if we don’t modify our behaviour. What changes need to happen to secure a healthy future for our oceans and marine life?
- Watch Life of a Plastic Bag. Create a short satirical film about an environmental issue.
- Erub artists respond to an environmental problem that directly impacts upon their local area. Investigate an issue that is prevalent where you live. Watch The young man and the ghost net video. Make a series of puppets and stages, and perform a puppet show that communicates your local environmental story.