Meet Erub Arts!
This art centre repurposes fishing nets to make contemporary sculptures with a powerful embodied message.
Erub (Darnley Island) is the most north-eastern of the Torres Strait Islands, and home to approximately 400 Erubam le (Erub people).
Erub artists are from four tribal groups and draw artistic inspiration from their identity and connection to their totems through both traditional and contemporary stories about their land, sea and family connections.
Historically, Erub relied on strong trade links and relationships with the people of Papua New Guinea and south to Cape York. Today, Erub Arts creative practice continues to evolve at a contemporary level by its willingness to collaborate with outside artists and celebrate cross cultural exchange.
The Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists at Erub Arts create amazing sculptures that are gaining a lot of notoriety in the Australasian art world. They work with ghost nets, a byproduct of commercial fishing that causes marine wildlife devastation and pollutes the coastline of the top half of Australia.
In 2016, Koskela collaborated with Erub Arts to produce a series of Christmas wreaths made from ghost nets. It was a fantastic opportunity to reinterpret the traditional Christmas wreath and introduce the ghost nest problem to a new audience.
Under the leadership of co-founder and long term artistic director Lynette Griffiths, Erub Arts is going from strength to strength. We caught up with her to find out more about this innovative art centre.
1. What is the purpose of your art centre?
The original dream was to create a viable arts practice on the island – one that might provide meaningful work and productive cultural engagement for island families.
Diann Lui, local resident and former principal of the Darnley Island State School, started the program. Utilising a school classroom she hosted Ekkilau, a women’s craft group. Over time, with generous support from public and private sources, the group built an intergenerational learning space with specialist arts facilities, which employed arts experts and acquired specialist equipment.
In the early 2000s the present centre was constructed and in 2008, the art centre became an Indigenous corporation and established itself independently of the school.
All Erub Arts activities are built around education – for ourselves, for our children and for the wider world – about who we are and where we stand in the cultural, natural and spiritual world. Erub Arts aims to be a sustainable business, and is delivering positive financial, social, educational and community outcomes.
2. Tell us more about the ghost net problem
90% of the marine debris entering the coastal regions of northern Australia is of a fishing nature and originates from all parts of Southeast Asia. The ghost nets (abandoned fishing nets) drift aimlessly indiscriminately killing as they travel with the ocean currents.
80% of this catch is marine turtles. The collection and disposal of ghost net has also become a huge logistical problem as the areas of Australia that are affected are sparsely inhabited by Indigenous people living in communities.
The Ghost Net Movement world wide is rapidly expanding, striving to generate awareness, recycling and sustainability options that will rid the world’s oceans of ghost net.
As global solutions to this problem are developed, Erub Arts has the capacity to plan and engage with conservation groups, museums and collectors on a world stage.
3. How does Erub Arts use ghost nets?
Repurposing an environmental problem, Erub Arts has been working with ghost net since 2010. From a practical beginning with largely utilitarian objects such as bags, Erub Arts is now recognised for large scale collaborative installations featuring marine animals that are found on the reefs and in the deep water which surrounds Erub.
Ghost net sculptures from Erub Arts and their collaborators are currently in national and international touring shows.
4. What exciting projects are in the pipeline for your art centre?
Over the next three years, Erub Arts plans to build on the success of recent years with ongoing commitment to create new works and programs that build and attract global audiences and buyers.
Photography by Lynette Griffiths.