Plastic problem in our oceans

Local artist BJ Boulter wanted to use art to highlight the issue of plastics in the ocean by creating an 8m long dolphin sculpture out of waste plastic. The exhibit was unveiled in May 2019 in the Marina de Lagos. Sophie Sadler was there to find out more about the project.

Pontoon J in the Marina was buzzing on a hot Saturday evening as supporters and art enthusiasts flocked to witness the impressive sculpture which was the product of hundreds of hours of work by Barbara Jane, (known as BJ) and a team of over 30 volunteers, including school children from the Nobel school.

BJ circulated amongst the guests and posed proudly for photographs in front of her creation, which she named, A Waste of a Dolphin. I asked her what she felt the message was behind her creation. 

“The name says it all! You can see in the sculpture that the body of the dolphin is tangled in nets, there are also plastic bags in the structure which we all know are dangerous to marine life. Plastic pipes inside represent the ribs, we made arteries and there is even a heart which glows red.”

The dolphin was put together at BJ’s rental property, Quinta de Oxala in Estômbar then transported to Lagos. I saw it being towed into Lagos Marina and it was a magnificent and slightly surreal spectacle bumping along on the back of a truck! “ It all came together like one gigantic puzzle,” says BJ.

She found some of the plastics at Algar ́s recycling plants, asked for donations and even left bags in local restaurants asking them to call her when they were full.

Also attending the exhibition was an enthusiastic supporter, Ingrid Fortunato, Director of MarLagos, who manages the marina and owns and runs the gallery space. The exhibition partly came about because Ingrid attended a lecture at the Camâra by Maria João Bebianno, a professor from Universidade do Algarve, to raise awareness of marine pollution and then talked to BJ about what they could do to help.

Ingrid told me; “The dolphin sculpture is, unfortunately, not only symbolic but real. We believe we need to shock people in order to make them think about the impact of their actions on the environment. Even if plastic is not the only contaminant we should worry about (as Dr. Maria João Bebianno and CIMA’s research has shown) with pharmaceuticals and metals also providing a threat to the oceans, it is the easiest to perceive, because it is visible.”

The opening exhibition was only the beginning of a series of initiatives by Marina de Lagos on marine pollution. There will also be a lecture for the school children from Escola de Naus by Professor Bebianno a professor at Universidade do Algarve, researcher for CIMA, (Centro de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental) in the gallery with BJ’s paintings as a backdrop.

Guests of BJ also were able to enjoy her exhibition Listen to the Ocean, in the Marina’s Art Academy, where refreshments were served. The art was celebrating the beauty and the splendour of our oceans whilst also warning about the human impact on marine life.

Each of her paintings features musical notes and symbolism; “I believe that the ocean sings,” says BJ, “the sound of the sea is a magical thing and this also emphasises that we must listen to it and be aware of the problems associated with pollution.”

BJ arrived in the Algarve from Tanzania with her parents and siblings over 50 years ago and has lived in the Algarve on and off since then. After attending Saint Martin’s School of Art and Lucie Clayton School of Design in London she worked as a Production Designer in film and television and has travelled the world making films. 

She still thinks of Tanzania as her homeland and many of her works are figurative, with landscapes, people and wildlife influenced by her regular safaris to East Africa with artists and filmmakers, and her daily life and encounters in Portugal. “A canvas is a page waiting to tell her story, to be shaped into life in sombre tones and glorious colour.”


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