Walk into the art space On Sharks & Humanity: How much we misunderstand about sharks?

This is Not Food, Nor is this a Dessert.
This is Not Food, Nor is this a Dessert | Source: www.sea.museum


The exhibition On Sharks & Humanity has been on display for five months in the Australian National Maritime Museum, and will be only available until 2 June, 2019. It is the last chance to enjoy the wonderful showcase and understand the importance of shark protection.

This exhibition refers to a combination of art, aesthetics and species, drawing loads of people to visit the thoughtful artworks. The purpose of this exhibition is to arise people’s consciousness of protecting sharks, building a friendly relationship between sharks and humanity.



Walking in the exhibition hall, you seem to go into another world, feeling the power of the nature, and the tininess of human.

The artists use their artworks to teach a class about enlightenment, judgement, and reflection for human being. Each of the works implies a metaphor, but can be summarised as the struggle and whoop of the shark.

The artworks of sharks are delicate, dramatic and beautiful, however, behind the beauty, we see the endless dark, sorrow and even despair. The breath of death hangs over the sharks. Through the pictures, it seems that we see their tears of pain, heard their whine of desperate.


I was deeply screamed by each of the artworks.

There is one named Ode to Eating, made up of delicate and fragile ceramics, by Chinese artist Yang Tao. To break something beautiful and show it to people, it is surrounded by ceramic shards with “blood”, conveying a sense of cruelty through the representation of the contrast between the beauty of life and the pain of scars. Looking insight, we see the notion of life, species, beauty and tranquillity represented in a semantic context of cruelty and desire.

the shark made from ceramic named “Ode to Eating”
Ode to Eating

Another one impressed me significantly is the work Confessional, as heavy as its name, a man standing in a mental cage shaped as shark’s fin on the sea surface, as if he is imprisoned. Turning the place, human is obliged to rethink and reconsider the harmful and violent behaviour they have done to other species. It is the time to confess for their crime and take action to make up for their misstep.

In the photograph “Confessional”, a man stands in the cage shaped as shark fin to rethink his crimes.

There is also a touching poetry I AM PART OF YOU, describing the indivisible relationship between sharks and humanity. Anywhere and anytime, they exist together and company with each other in the nature, on the land or to the depth of the sea. The poetry is as beautiful as a dream, as pure as a fairy tale, however, soaking me in the atmosphere of sadness. We do so much hurt to them while they consider they are part of us.

the poetry “I AM PART OF YOU”

Shark protection is not that easy to mention, because it is usually related to hurt, damage, and even kill in people’s mind. The artists try to use their own way to convey their emotions and attitudes towards the relationship between sharks and humanity. The forms vary from paintings, sculptures, videos to poetries, bring a vivid and immersive visual experience to the visitors.

The artworks can actually tell a story or ring an alarm or give a lesson to people. They are more than only expressing love beauty, but evoke people’s willing to cherish and treasure sharks.


It seems that I fell into the deep ocean and witnessed a nightmare of slaughter, blood and death.”

After visiting the exhibition, I felf touched and shocked, so did Qi together with me, who is a student majoring in visual arts. “This is the most shook showcase that I’ve ever seen. It seems that I fell into the deep ocean and witnessed a nightmare of slaughter, blood and death”, she said.

“Colours and lines give us the intuitional feeling. Sharks are innocent and in pitiful condition”, Qi said, standing still in front of the painting Degree of Killing.

"Degree of Killing": use disordered lines and bright colours to show the death and extinction of sharks
Degree of Killing: use disordered lines and bright colours to show the death and extinction of sharks

“Endowed with life by nature, they ought to have the same right to life as human beings”, she added. The exhibition has revealed the unforgivable sins of mankind, alluded to the greed of human desire and cruel soul from the perspective of art.


How much we misunderstand about sharks?

You may or may not know, sharks are at great risk of extinction due to human’s activity such as overfishing and marine pollution. According to statistics, the number of sharks in Australian waters has dramatically declined in the past five decades.

Sharks are always be seen as scary and fierce creatures due to the effect of media and public opinion. Actually, we have too much misunderstandings of them. More seriously, nobody cares about sharks.

According to Rob Stewart in his documentary Sharkwater, “everyone wants to save pandas, elephants and bears, but the whole world fears sharks.” They are hunted for human’s misconceptions and prejudices, pathetic and fragile. They stay in their territory as the underdog, in a horror situation.

The shot of swimming shark in Sharkwater
The shot of swimming shark in Sharkwater| Source: www.sharkwater.com

Sharks are always associated with danger. Nevertheless, it is not true. Valerie Taylor, who changed from a spear fisher to a shark protector, treats sharks like friends, remaining an admirer of marine life. She believes that every shark has its own personality, nothing about swimming around the ocean looking for someone to eat. The only way to tell the personality of a shark is getting to know it, instead of doubt and conjecture.

It is widely known that there are  shark attacks in Australia every year. However, humans do far more damage to sharks than that. The policy of the Australian government about shark net has been proved unwise, which cannot prevent sharks from getting near to the beach but could kill animals that are passing by.

  • Are sharks really scary creatures?
  • Should they be killed for their ferocious appearance?
  • Is it human fear or human desire that takes their lives?

The selfishness of human is so terrible that it is necessary to reflect on their own behaviour. Humans have no right to deprive sharks of their lives. Be in awe of nature and be in respect of other species, rather than destroy the beauty of nature.

Where there is moss, there is civilization, and where there is civilization, there is competition. In the nature, we human are as small as any other species, no more noble than a shark. Human never consider in terms of sharks, merely go on his own way without looking back or stopping.

Humans have had too many misconceptions about sharks for too long. Many behaviours and attitudes are required introspection and rethink. Although no one can stand on the top of morality, we can try our best to correct it.



About Linlin Zheng 4 Articles
International student from China, major in Digital Communication and Culture, contact me at lzhe2493@uni.sydney.edu.au

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