Caymanian artist gives new meaning to beach waste

‘Manavelins’ opens 1 Aug. at Cayman Handmade Collective

In artist Kerwin Ebanks’ workspace, he has amassed supplies from all over the region. He can trace the material, now overflowing from his supply shed, to St. Croix, Haiti, Venezuela and elsewhere.

The origin of each item relies largely on the wave patterns around Cayman’s shores, he explains, speaking at Cayman Handmade Collective, the location of his next exhibition, ‘Manavelins’.

His collection of sea-inspired sculptures and mosaics is crafted from ‘found’ items, discovered while combing Cayman’s beaches.

The artist adjusts his hanging bird sculpture. – Photo: Alvaro Serey

Depending on the currents, these items – plastic bottles, fishing nets, shoes, coat hangers – wash in from different locations.

Much of the material he uses is recovered during clean-ups by Plastic Free Cayman, the Department of Environment, Trash Talks Cayman or Ebanks himself.

After collection, Ebanks processes the plastic material, sawing it into quarter-inch squares that can then be fit into colourful mosaics.

Beach rubbish has become a cheap and abundant source of material for artists like Ebanks, who explains that he’d rather see the waste repurposed than transported to the landfill.

“[The material] no longer has any kind of use whatsoever,” Ebanks says. “What if you could give it a longer life, something that’s of value, something that has a meaning?”

In ‘Manavelins’, a term for scraps or odds and ends, Ebanks brings together a mixture of techniques and ‘found’ materials to create a multidimensional exhibition.

The ‘odds and ends’ that comprise each work, created over the course of three years, add to their meaning.

One featured sculpture, for example, integrates a ‘ghost net’ salvaged by the DoE near Pallas Wreck off of South Sound in late May. While at sea, the net trapped three sharks, one of which died.

By repurposing the material, Ebanks hopes to bring attention to the danger discarded fishing gear can pose to marine life.

Ebanks creates his pieces from materials he finds washed up on shore. – Photo: Alvaro Serey

In a decade of work as an artist, Ebanks has drawn inspiration from the sea and his sense of responsibility to Cayman’s seafaring heritage.

“I grew up fishing and snorkelling with my uncles and cousins. I hail from a seafaring family. It seemed very natural that my practice as an artist reflects that,” Ebanks says.
“The sea is my muse. Over the past few years, however, I’ve encountered much more trash on the beaches. As a marine artist, I owe it to my sons to at least try to preserve the way of life that I so cherish.”

Kerwin Ebanks stands beside his mosaic of seabirds and marine creatures. – Photo: Alvaro Serey

In another piece, a mosaic titled ‘Boneheads of Barkers’, there is a literal message concealed among the estimated 28,000 plastic squares. Ebanks has hidden the word ‘Barkers’ in there. He is offering a $50 prize to anyone who is able to find it.

The show will run 1-31 Aug., 9am-5pm, Monday-Saturday, at Cayman Handmade Collective at Unit 6, 72 North Church Street.

The weekly schedule includes opportunities to meet the artist, each Saturday from 5-7pm. Guests will be limited to 45 each night to ensure social distancing.

Entry is free and meet-and-greet nights include complimentary drinks and canapes. Donations will be accepted for Plastic Free Cayman.

| For more details or to RSVP, email [email protected]

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