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National Museum of Australia

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Collection Explorer


Ghost net Butterfly Fish


Ghost net Butterfly Fish

Object information

Physical description

A round sculpture of a fish made from ghost nets (nylon monofilament fishing lines) with a large flowing tail and fins. The fish is dark and light blue, yellow, green and turquoise in colour with a yellow and orange plastic frame. The fish has white lips, two blue eyes that are surrounded by non-intertwined grey fishing lines.

Statement of significance

The collection is comprised of a series of objects all made from ghost net, and which evoke different aspects of the Erub artists' relationship to the marine environment. It comprises a full-sized dinghy, named 'Loyalty', sand and coral anchors, a fishing spear, two oars, a petrol tank, an outboard motor (60 horsepower), six fish and a squid. The principal artists are Alma Sailor, Ellarose Savage, Emma Gela, Florence Gutchen,Kapua Gutchen, Jimmy Thaiday, Nancy Naawi, Nancy Kiwat, Racy Oui-Pitt, Lavinia Keetchel, Milla Anson and Maryanne Bourne. Participants in the 'My Path' Indigenous employment scheme also assisted with the welding of the dinghy's steel frames. All the objects are made from salvaged ghost netting. The netting on the dinghy has been secured to the steel frames using cable ties and sewn synthetic thread. The ghost net was collected from beaches by rangers on Erub (Darnley Island).

Ghost nets are remnants of fishing nets which have been lost, discarded, or abandoned at sea. Made of long-lasting synthetic materials, they drift with the ocean currents and tides creating environmental dangers for marine life, including threatened and protected species, other fishing vessels and shipping. They are periodically washed up on the shores of northern Australia and the islands of the Torres Strait. From this environmental hazard has emerged a new genre of art which has been enthusiastically embraced by artists at Erub Erwer Meta (Erub Arts Centre) and other northern Australian Indigenous arts centres as a continuation, revival and reinterpreta tion of traditional stories and methods of sculpture and weaving. The art form also highlights the environmental concerns caused by the ghost nets.

Object information

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