Between the 17th and 23rd of June, Culatra island hosted two artists who created installations and ran actions to raise awareness of the importance of marine conservation among the community. The initiative took place as part of the Mar Motto event, run by Sciaena, a Portuguese environmental NGO that fights for marine conservation, in partnership with the Faro City Council and with the active participation of the Culatra Island Residents’ Association.
Ana Pêgo, best known for her project “Plasticus Maritimus”, does not consider herself an artist, rather a marine biologist who likes to lay things out and line things up. Her work, which raises awareness of the problem with plastic from the perspective of both an artist and trainer, is well-known around greater the Lisbon area, especially in Cascais, where she lives. But Ana Pêgo also has a long-standing connection with the Algarve, having studied Marine Biology and Fisheries at the University of Algarve. In order to raise awareness among youngsters about the issue of marine waste, the artist and biologist held a workshop at the Nossa Senhora dos Navegantes Association Social Centre. Aimed at infant-school children, their teachers and classroom assistants, the workshop consisted of a display of the various types of plastic found on the beach and the daily habits participants could adopt to help reduce this type of waste. To raise awareness among the local community and visitors to the island, Ana Pêgo built a loom out of fishing ropes made of multicoloured plastic, that were either left behind or washed up on Culatra’s beaches. The installation has already caught the attention of many passers-by. Leaving the loom unfinished, the artist hopes locals and visitors to the island can keep working on it, adding all the debris they may find on the beach.
David Mota, whose artist name is “Curtiço”, grew up on the beach in Montegordo, has a degree in fine arts and is a free/non-formal youth education professional who is passionate about cork. Used in countless ways to create his works, cork is, once again, a vital part of the murals created by the artist, forming yet another attraction for visitors to the island. Taking inspiration from the sea and fishing, Curtiço created a mural near the new playground, in which he addresses the theme of “The Island’s Awakening” using graffiti, cork and other materials to create his traditional cork style along the main road to the beach. In addition to these murals, Curtiço felt the need to give the island even more, going on to create panels engraved with poems about Culatra that have been placed on the backs of information boards, having taken inspiration from a book about the island given to him by the community. The artist also took advantage of his time on Culatra island to run a workshop for young people on how to use cork to make models some of the island’s traditional boats, encouraging them to choose the ones they were most inspired by, and which touched their hearts. These cork boats were later placed on water meters around the island. Both artists plan on returning to the island to continue holding workshops and producing artworks over the coming months.
In addition to these two artists, Culatra island was also contacted by Ana Monteiro, a young director who plans to make a short film about the Culatra community. In this first contact with the community on Culatra island, the director began by researching the themes she will address in the short film she plans on making. Though filming will only start next July, the director has already felt inspiration strike in relation to several themes. Claudia Soares, Sciaena's communication and awareness coordinator, says that “what sets Sciaena apart and makes it a 21st century NGO is this less conventional way of raising awareness of the importance of marine conservation. The idea behind the Mar Motto project is consistent; using art in all its dimensions, whether through paintings, photography, film or others, as a way to raise awareness about the problems faced by our oceans. It is this more relaxed and accessible exposure that allows it to reach every level of society”. Faro council went on to reinforce the importance of these installations thanks to their direct relationship with the island's cultural identity. The work done by these artists can only contribute to the sustainable, artistic and social development of Culatra island as long as the direct involvement of its communities is insured.