Show tells story of cod fishery’s demise

Tara Bradbury
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Carolyn Morgan’s pieces “Overfishing 1978; Overfishing 1988; Overfishing Cod Moratorium 1992.” — Submitted photo

It’s common knowledge how in this province, stories are often told with music or art; history and folklore combined with melodies, woven with thread or painted on canvas.

It’s only natural the province’s struggle with the collapse of the cod fishery be a major source of inspiration for artists.

Next week marks the 20th anniversary of the cod moratorium in Newfoundland and Labrador, and Five Island Art Gallery in Tors Cove is recognizing it with “Reflections on Cod — The Fishery, The Moratorium,” a juried show of about 50 works by local artists, telling the story of our once-thriving cod fishery and its demise.

The idea started with Marion Counsel and the Five Island Rug Hooking Group, a group of women who first got together in August 2009. Since then, they have held a number of exhibits showcasing their hooked rugs representing various memories, challenges and inspiration in Newfoundland and Labrador culture. In 2010, the ladies published a book — “Hooking Our Heritage” — and brought their work to Ireland, where they held a show and conducted rug hooking demonstrations and workshops.

“So many people had been touched by the moratorium, and we thought it was something that should be commemorated,” said Laura Coultas, who runs the gallery and is co-curating the exhibit with her mother, Frances Ennis, and aunt, Maxine Ennis.

The gallery put out a call for submissions this spring, and received plenty — Coultas and her family are still trying to find space to hang them all.

While there are hooked rugs, there are also pieces of art in other media, including watercolour, acrylic and oil paintings, pastel drawings, gyotaku (Japanese fish printing), and ceramics, by artists like Dave Hoddinott, Jeannette Jobson, Cathy Driedzic and Randy Blundon.

Some artists chose to focus on a life that once was; others depict snapshots of life since the industry’s downfall.

With her art figure “Great-Great-Grandmother Making Fish,” Carolyn Morgan of St. John’s focuses on the role of women in the cod fishery.

“The quality of the cod was left to them women, and it was up to them to properly salt it, turn it at the right time, make sure it didn’t spoil and keep the dogs away from it,” Morgan said.

“The amount of money a family would get for the cod was up to the woman, and a woman who could watch the quality was essential to the business. I wanted to make sure that women’s role was documented.”

See SONG, page D4

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Tors Cove, Ireland

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Recent comments

  • a business man
    July 01, 2012 - 06:50

    I think the important story is that even though the cod fishery has demised, Canada has a whole has moved forward and is in a far better position than it was before. Yes, the cod fishermen lost their livlihood (at least part of it), but if every one else is better off, then it seems like all is good to me. Some will benefit, some will suffer, thus is the nature of political decisions and government. As long as the number that is benefiting is large, then that is okay. Additionally, if there was ever a sector that I would pick to face a demise, it would first be the fishery and then low skill manufacturing. In my opinion, it is much better to lose these type of job instead of losing IT jobs or office/professional jobs.

  • Mike
    June 30, 2012 - 14:08

    I only know what I have read and it isn't much but a one sided report so........ Why and how and by whom was the fish industry shut down? What percentage was export? Are you or someone saying there are no cod left? I may not be a cod fisherman but I'm not a sucker either. hehe If you have over fished the area that is too bad for you. Now you wait for nature to take it's long course.