Radiant eagle rays shine light on Indigenous histories

·2-min read

An artistic collective has woven Indigenous histories into an iconic part of the coastline with a school of rays made from ocean rubbish.

Mermer Waiskeder: Stories of the Moving Tide transforms abandoned and discarded fishing gear into a stunning work that hangs in the canopy of Sydney's business district.

The material, referred to as 'ghost nets', contributes to the decimation of marine life but artist group Ghost Net Collective has reclaimed and recycled them into something new.

"Ghost nets are a silent and deadly killer, and they just keep killing," lead artist Lynnette Griffiths said.

"We wanted to create awareness of conservation issues while also looking at the history and culture from Torres Strait and down to here."

At the Barangaroo exit of Wynyard Station, 11 eagle rays - meticulously hand-stitched from marine detritus - soar over commuters.

Their underbellies, which span up to 2.8 metres in length, are adorned with coral reef patterns and light strips.

At night, the eagle rays illuminate the footpath below, rippling over those passing by.

Ghost Net Collective member Jimmy John Thaiday said it would stop people in their tracks.

"I hope they walk into a pole," he joked.

"It brings family and friends and everyone together to see the story of the moving tide."

Unity and collaboration are central to Ghost Net Collective's art.

The rays were stitched by more than 100 Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists from across the world over three years.

Curator Nina Miall said the piece's creation and location pay homage to Indigenous cultures while also highlighting the climate crisis.

"The simple act of Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists working together - the literal interweaving of different communities that occurs with every stitch - is so integral," she said.

By placing the works on the opening to the Barangaroo waterline, the eagle rays remind viewers about the site's history as a fishing place for the Indigenous Gadigal community.

But Barangaroo's modern context also plays into Mermer Waiskeder's message.

"A city square is a place that people pass through and congregate on this place. People have done so from before time, and will into the future," Griffiths said.

"This place and this artwork seeks to connect people from the past and seek to connect people and leaders for the future."