By Natalia Bonilla.
San Juan, Nov 13 (EFE).- The warm waters off the Bahamas are home to a collection of large-scale underwater sculptures, including one considered the world’s largest that rises nearly 18 feet from the seafloor and is designed to help protect and preserve natural coral reefs of this Caribbean archipelago.
The Coral Reef Sculpture Garden “attracts divers from all over the world, art enthusiasts, marine biologists and other science educational groups,” Jazmine McPhee, an associate of DWS Partners, the consulting firm hired for this ongoing initiative, told Efe.
The Bahamian government agreed to lease a near-shore seabed in waters off the western coast of New Providence island to the Bahamas Reef Environment Education Foundation, which started installing the sculptures in September.
The sculpture garden “is the perfect fusion of art, education and seafloor conservation located in the world’s most beautiful waters,” BREEF executive director Casuarina McKinney-Lambert said in a statement.
The installation of the eco-friendly artwork will serve to redirect beach-goers and snorkelers away from natural reefs and allow time for them to regenerate, she added.
Bahamian artist Willicey Tynes won BREEF’s first art competition for students in 1995, and he and BREEF founder Nicholas Nuttall later struck up a friendship.
The sculpture garden is the product of those men’s vision “to channel their passion and creativity for art into raising public awareness of environmental issues,” the statement added.
Thus far, five firmly-anchored sculptures and 50 reef balls, produced from eco-friendly materials that facilitate reef growth, have been installed.
Tynes and fellow Bahamian artist Andret John are responsible for two sculptures each, including works that depict the islands’ first known inhabitants: “Virtuoso Man” and John Lucayan.
However, the main attraction is the world’s largest underwater sculpture, a creation of British artist Jason deCaires Taylor that rises approximately 18 feet from the seafloor – nearly to the ocean surface – and weighs around 60 pounds.
The artist says the work alludes to the Greek mythological character Atlas, who was condemned to carry the world on his back. In DeCaires Taylor’s work, titled “Ocean Atlas,” the sculpture depicts a local teenage girl “holding up the sea.”
“The idea is that the area’s natural coral reefs will be given time to ‘heal’ and local species will have more space to find refuge and breed,” McPhee told Efe in an interview.