Turning litter into art

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Portuguese barnacle fisherman, turned professional beachcomber, turned environmental activist, Ricardo Ramos spent a month in Mozambique with the sole purpose of collecting plastic to produce his signature fish sculptures, and teach the local residents of Vilankulo to do the same.

“Plastic is damaging to marine life and has a negative impact on tourism,” says Susana Vidal, general manager of Bahia Mar, who invited Ramos to Vilankulo to create awareness around plastic and dumping. “People earn their living primarily from fishing and tourism, and for many it’s a subsistence existence,” says Vidal.

Plastic fish art
Image by Bahia Mar Club
Image by Bahia Mar Club

The Vilankulo area is home to unique marine species like dugongs, and Bahia Mar, as a member of Fair Trade Tourism, is committed to uplifting the local community and preserving the natural environment. Vidal believes it is important for the community to learn about plastic and pollution.

Ramos sharesthe same sentiments and will donate the funds raised from five sculptures to Parceiros Comunitarios (ParCo), a local community development firm. He has createda blue and yellow fish, turtle, an elephant, and a marlin from the litter he collectedin Vilankulo.

Collecting plastic from the beach
Image by Bahia Mar Club

Ramos started making fish art from plastic in early 2017. “The amount of litter on the Portuguese shoreline is insane,” he says. “I couldn´t ignore it. So, for Christmas my sons and I went to the nearest beach and started collecting litter to create Christmas presents.” From then on, he was addicted and the brand, Xicogaivota, was born.

Ricardo Ramos
Image by Bahia Mar Club

Each artwork is treated like a puzzle. Ramos refuses to use glue or alter the collected plastic. All sculptures are held together by rope and stainless-steel screws. His favourite artwork to date is the turtle because of the technicality and the time it took to find the perfect piece of plastic.

Plastic in the oceans is a global problem, but the type of litter varies based on local consumption. In Vilankulo, Ramos found lots of plastic fizzy drink bottles.

Ramos is already planning his return in April 2019 to continue teaching Vilankulo locals to make art from plastic. “Home doesn’t end at my front porch. This amazing planet is my home and I want it clean,” he says.

Written by Georgina Lockwood

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