Hundreds of Gotizans are taking part in an environmental awareness campaign, the outcome of which will be a massive trash-art sculpture of Christ that will be erected at Ta’ Pinu basilica in September.
The Cast-Out Project is inviting locals to recycle their plastic bottles and participate in clean-ups to tidy local landscapes and gather littered bottles, which can be repurposed into the art installation. The initiative is funded by the Ministry for Gozo and held in collaboration with Queen Mary University of London Malta Campus and the European Parliament Liaison Office in Malta.
Project manager Jo Curtis dreamt up the idea of this sculpture during a visit to the popular Gozitan shrine a couple of years ago.
“At that time, Malta’s challenges with litter and recycling (only recycling seven per cent of its waste) were well known,” Curtis, a UK national who settled in Gozo in 2018, says.
“The Cast-Out Project is a call to action and relies on people supporting us and taking part. Thankfully, locals got excited and got involved, recycling hundreds of their plastic drinks bottles and donating these at our community collection boxes. Others have volunteered for our litter-pick events. During these clean-ups, we find lots of littered plastic bottles too, which we clean, heat-shrink and recycle into our art. The project encourages eco- citizenship in a fun way.”
The 4.5-metre-high by four-metre-wide religious art installation is being created by Joseph Barbara, who has been recycling used plastic materials into artworks for over 30 years. His studio in Mosta is full of classical-looking statues made from fused plastic carrier bags or futuristic lights repurposed from plastic water bottles. He also made Malta’s first eco-Christmas tree, using 4,000 used plastic drinks bottles, in 2007.
His latest artwork will be made from thousands of recycled and littered plastic bottles and will be on display at Ta’ Pinu for three months.
“This climate-themed image of Christ, made from over 3,000 recycled and littered plastic bottles, sourced locally, also demonstrates the scale of our plastic consumption and urges us to protect the created world. Our aim was to clean up the island and get people recycling while working together to create something to bring a positive focus to Gozo, a sculpture of Our Saviour to help us save the planet. Creating an event/installation that people can visit and have their photo taken alongside, which also conveys an important message,” Curtis continues.
Most of the materials used are recycled and so are reborn once again, like Christ
“People often want to do their bit to improve the planet but are unsure of how to start. This project offers an accessible way for locals to become more actively engaged.”
So far, locals have donated over 2,000 used plastic drinks bottles to the campaign. The project manager notes that the Laura Vicuna School, in Għasri and St Francis Primary School, in Victoria collected over 1,000 bottles between them within just a few weeks. Local businesses have been doing their part too.
“People are enjoying the prospect of having something totally unique happening in Gozo. Litter-picks are totally addictive and it is great to leave a location looking immediately better than when you found it,” Curtis says.
“Because we are a small grass-roots campaign and a not-for-profit venture, local businesses have also helped by donating goods. We sense that people are enjoying this ‘community coming together’, albeit working within a COVID-compliant framework but having something collectively they can contribute to and work towards which also improves Gozo.”
Other supporters of the project include Gharb mayor David Apap-Agius, who helped the team get the necessary permits, and Pillow Space Frame Ltd, which are engineering and providing them with a supportive space frame by repurposing metal from a canopy they built for the late pope John Paul II. Din l-Art Ħelwa Mellieħa is providing littered plastic bottles found during their clean-ups in Malta. Thus, it will be possible to incorporate recycled bottles from Malta too into the artwork.
“Most of the materials used to build the installation are recycled and so are reborn once again, like Christ,” Curtis enthuses.
“The artwork is also being constructed without any adhesives, so after it is exhibited, it can be recycled once again with minimal environmental impact.”
The Church authorities have blessed the project from the very start. As Curtis explains, there are various global appeals and teachings linking faith and ecology with climate change and the need to safeguard the created world, such as Pope Francis’s Laudato Sì: On Care for Our Common Home and the Season of Creation campaign.
Cardinal Mario Grech, then bishop of Gozo, gave the project his support and advised the team of how the installation linked to Pope Francis’s encyclical.
“Church authorities have been very accepting and always understood what Cast-Out was trying to achieve,” Curtis notes, adding that Bishop Anton Teuma has given them their official sanction and that they are also still in communication with Cardinal Grech at the Vatican.
The team is currently “super-busy” with and focused on the campaign and getting everything in order for the art installation in September.
“We hope people will feel a sense of pride and ownership once the art goes on show, knowing they helped to make it happen, besides incentivising them to recycle more,” Curtis remarks. “And we hope this art installation will become a go-to tourist attraction.”
Want to get involved? Go to the Cast-Out website at www.cast-out.com or Facebook page for details about future litter-picking and community events.
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