caption – Pormpuraaw artists Michael Norman, Christine Holroyd and Michael Norman outside their installation Ghost Nets of Pormpuraaw at the Queeensland Museum

by Nance Haxton

Internationally renowned artworks from the Pormpuraaw Art and Culture Centre recycled from discarded fishing nets that drift in the ocean will feature in the World Science Festival in Brisbane until March 24.

The large-scale immersive installation Ghost Nets of Pormpuraaw outside the Queensland Museum shows the impact of pollution on our oceans and First Nations culture.

The artists transform dumped washed up fishing nets with traditional weaving techniques into stunning large scale colourful sculptures of their totems.

Artist Syd Bruce Shortjoe says the community is proud that their artworks teach people about how to treat the environment better before all the fish are destroyed by pollution.

“Why we call it Ghost Nets – it’s a pollution thing,” Uncle Syd says.

“At least the fisheries if they dispose it on land burning it that’s fine. But when they’re doing this out in the sea or river or where else, mostly especially during monsoon, high tide, when they throw it over the boat, it drifts and instantly killing more marine life.”

The recycled artworks from Pormpuraaw artists are world renowned, providing an important income to the isolated community. Their creations are now hanging all around the world from the United Nations in New York to Paris.

Uncle Syd says they hope their art teaches people that whatever is dumped at sea has an impact on the environment, killing fish they rely on for food and culture.

“For my future generation that’s coming if they don’t see that fish then part of my culture is just gone as well,” he says.

“They won’t have any idea what swordfish look like, it’s a cultural fish. We have songs for it. We dance whatever we want, for bullshark, for the shovel-nosed ray or that one, they all have songs.”