Ghost Net Whale Sculpture Captures Hearts Overseas

An incredible sculpture of a Southern Right Whale made from ghost nets and marine debris is gaining recognition in Europe. This incredible installation was created in 2014 by women from the Ceduna and Yalata communities, as a part of the Arts Ceduna project in collaboration with Ghost Nets Australia. The installation, titled Jidirah, has been migrating through Europe and is currently being exhibited at the Museum of Natural History Le Havre in France (ABC News, 2021).

Jidirah exhibited in Monaco. Courtesy of Port Lincoln Times, 2016.

Jidirah shares with the world Indigenous culture and serves as an important reminder of why we should protect our oceans. The sculpture shows the Mirning people's strong connection to country, through using the rubbish that is having a detrimental impact on the local environment to create something beautiful. It took members from the Ceduna art community 10 full days to create the sculpture, consisting of ghost nets and debris collected from beaches along the Nullarbor (ABC News, 2021). 

Ghost Nets Australia has run many of these kinds of projects, and their creations have proven to be an excellent medium for informing the general public about the damage that ghost nets inflict on our marine environment. Even before this project began, many communities around Australia were already using ghost nets in a variety of creative ways such as being used as screens on veranda and fencing for chook pens. It is wonderful to see this harmful rubbish being turned into gorgeous works of art that spread awareness (Ghost Net Art, 2021).

Artists from Ceduna putting the finishing touches on Jidirah the whale. Photo by Sue Ryan. Courtesy of Ghost Nets Australia, 2014.

The finished artwork was first exhibited in Adelaide and then sold in 2015 to an art gallery in Paris named Arts d'Australie by Stéphane Jacob. Jidirah was then bought by a Swiss philanthropist under the Opale Foundation and is currently on loan to the Natural History Le Havre. This is an incredible achievement for the art centre as having the installation exhibited overseas is not only helping share knowledge of Indigenous craftsmanship and culture, but it is also boosting the credibility of the artists from the Ceduna community (ABC News, 2021). Former Arts Ceduna manager Pam Diment excitedly said in an interview with ABC News on the latter (2021):

"It's given great exposure for the Mirning people, the Head of the Bight, the whale season, anything with exposure brings in a lot of cultural stuff and their storyline to go with the whale, it just educates the world."

Jidirah is an important Dreamtime story for the Mirning people, the people of the Great Australian Bight. The word “Mirning” means “listen, learn, observe and understand for wisdom and knowledge” (Mirning, 2021). Their country is the place where the southern right whales nurse and teach their calves and it is a sanctuary where the whales can rest and find refuge. The whale is the Mirning people’s totem and features as a key part of their Dreamtime story Jidirah (Mirning, 2021). The story goes that in the Dreamtime a great white spirit whale called Jidirah came down from the Milky Way with the Seven Sisters dancing on its back, to create the earth and sky. Jidirah left his mark on the landscape and this special place is now known as Bunda Cliffs. This story shows the Mirning peoples strong and everlasting connection with these incredible creatures (Arts Ceduna, 2021).

For decades now, Indigenous art has been gaining increasing international recognition. Jidarah is just one of the many works that has captured the attention of European art galleries and museums. We are sure this gorgeous sculpture will continue to migrate throughout the world, spreading the important message of caring for our precious marine environment.