Using beauty to inspire change, Kommetjie artist Chip Snaddon created a wire armature of an albatross in flight as part of the LogJam Beach Festival on Saturday, June 3.
The impressive 3m wingspan of a mature albatross was brought to life in the artwork, which was poised above a net, laden with rubbish collected from Muizenberg beach by volunteers and The Beach Co-op.
Mr Snaddon lives in Kommetjie in a home he built, where he creates art with a conscience, and works towards going off-grid. He also enjoys surfing, so his appearance at the LogJam Festival earlier this month, using the collected junk to make his statement about pollution vs conservation, was well suited.
The ex-Argus cartoonist is passionate about the effect of plastic pollution on the planet, the oceans and the wildlife dependent on it.
“I personally think we’ve gone too far to backtrack, to make it better, but people have become inured to shock tactics and doom and gloom, so I thought for a festival like this I would create something to show off the majesty of these birds. I am hoping that seeing this will serve as an inspiration for people to just be conscious of their own actions,” he said.
He says the albatross is also an apt symbol as our thoughtless actions today, our pollution, have us symbolically wearing the body of the dead albatross around our necks, representative of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
In the poem, a mariner shoots an albatross (which is seen by sailors as good luck).
The killing of the bird is believed to bring tragedy, and the body of the bird is hung around his neck by the crew to symbolize his guilt.
Sailors of old used to believe that albatrosses were supernatural because they are able to fly long distances without flapping their wings, soaring up and down using surface winds to glide.
They also thought the albatross held the souls of lost sailors, so they held the sea birds in high respect. To kill one would bring bad luck to the crew and the ship.
Mr Snaddon said our plastic pollution is systematically killing this bird. He says albatrosses often mistake plastic for food and feed it to their young, killing the chicks. Also, fish and other sea life consume the (often, single-use) plastic and rubbish we discard, and suffer slow painful deaths.
In a further twist, when we at the ailing fish, we are ultimately consuming our own plastic and rubbish, further down the line.
He describes his view as fatalistic but says while he can celebrate the beauty of nature, he will still create art to reflect that.