Evidence of Scale: Ghost Nets from Pormpuraaw Art & Culture Centre
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Engulfing the mezzanine gallery are Ghost net sculptures from Pormpuraaw (on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula) by Christine Holroyd, Christine Yantumba, Michael Norman, Mylene Holroyd, Steven Kepper and Syd Bruce Shortjoe. These artworks utilise recycled materials, in particular nets that have been dumped by commercial fishing boats, causing significant environmental harm. Four of these works, including Christine Yantumba’s Mudskipper were exhibited in Australia/ Defending the Oceans: Ghost Net Sculptures at The Paris Aquarium and the United Nations in Geneva in 2017.
The wildlife sculptures portray both environmentally and culturally important factors. Artist Syd Bruce Shortjoe remarks, “Our people have a rich tradition of weaving, so Ghost net sculpture fitted easily with our culture. The subject most depicted are our totems… the most important part of our culture. They form the basis for our stories and songlines”. Artist Michael Norman further comments about his crab sculpture, “Mud crabs are an important totem for all saltwater people, like my Thayorre clan group. They live in the mangrove swamps and we used to hunt for them with spear and club. These days we use net traps that we place in our rivers”.