The plight of our planet’s oceans is no secret. Marine pollution is widespread – and a global threat to the environment. Discarded fishing gear, microplastics and other forms of plastic pollution are harming marine life, making sea animals sick and causing them to perish prematurely. While the role of seaside communities in the fight against ocean pollution is critical, each and every person on our planet has a role to play in keeping our oceans clean and healthy.
Enter ‘A Fish Called Faithful’, a sculpture art installation made of plastic and wire that was unveiled at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront in July 2019. Its purpose? To highlight the catastrophic impact of plastic pollution on marine life.
At 4.5 metres long and 2.5 metres high, A Fish Called Faithful stood on the V&A’s Flagpole Terrace, overlooking Quay Five. Created from upcycled plastic and other repurposed materials, the installation was commissioned by well-known online eco health and lifestyle retailer Faithful To Nature. Commissioned as part of Faithful To Nature’s Plastic-free July initiative, the striking installation was designed and created by Langa-based non-profit Our Workshop.
Feeding Faithful to highlight a global catastrophe
What makes this sculpture so impactful is that it drives home the plight of our planet’s sea creatures’ in a tangible way. Members of the public not only come by to view and appreciate the artwork, but are invited to literally throw plastic into Faithful’s mouth, highlighting just how much plastic waste ends up being swallowed by ocean creatures in a highly experiential manner.
“Faithful is here to collect plastic, so that it does not end up in our oceans and in the stomachs of Faithful’s friends,” says Faithful to Nature CEO Katrien Grobler. “Every year, up to 12 million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans. We as humans have managed to dump the equivalent of the weight of 60 000 blue whales in plastic into the ocean,” she adds.
While South Africa has made some inroads into combatting the catastrophic impact of plastic waste on marine life, Heath Nash, the internationally acclaimed designer heading up Our Workshop, added: “We all need to start caring more about what we discard, what we buy and what our individual responsibility is for what ends up in the ocean.”
Art with a purpose – tackling ocean pollution hands-on
Richard Mandongwe, Our Workshop’s project manager, lead the team who created A Fish Called Faithful. He said that creating Faithful was a challenge, but one he enjoyed, especially knowing that they were doing it for an excellent cause. “People don’t pay attention to the impact of plastic pollution on our environment. Hopefully we can create awareness about where most plastic waste ends up – and the action we need to take in order to preserve our environment.”
“Feeding Faithful with plastic is a tangible, fun way through which to educate – and create awareness – around plastic’s catastrophic effect on ocean life. Every person who takes part becomes instrumental in highlighting this issue, and will inspire others into action,” says Grobler. In addition, all the plastic waste in Faithful’s belly will be disposed of in the most effective and responsible way possible, according to the initiative’s organisers.
Ethical retail – not business as usual
New research from the strategy division of the professional services firm, Accenture, found that that consumers, across all generations, care about what retailers say and how they act. Enter Faithful To Nature, a pioneer of ethical retail in South Africa. The online retailer offers items which are respectful to nature and also aims to carry products containing minimum amounts of plastic.
Katrien Grobler mentioned that retailers have an enormous role to play in reducing plastic-packaging waste. “Going plastic-free is asking for a complete paradigm shift, but it is our duty to make the process easier for shoppers and inspire more careful shopping and packaging decisions,” she says.
Being mobile, A Fish Named Faithful was moved to a new location at the end of July 2019 after being on display at the V&A Waterfront. Faithful will keep spreading its message of ocean conservation and creating awareness about marine plastic pollution and the efforts to preserve our oceans. Concluding on an inspirational note, Katrien Grobler added: “Let us come together to feed A Fish Named Faithful and add our voices to the plastic-free conversation. Every less straw makes a difference, every bit helps.”
Image credit: Dwayne Senior/Splash PR
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