‘The greatest danger to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.’ Robert Swan

A large fish with an open mouth carrying factories and industrial effluents on its back, begs to be heard. It lies at the bottom of the ocean as a symbol of the carnage wrought by mankind in a world that was once lush and beautiful. The now barren underwater landscape seeks to be transformed from an endless residue of waste material into a thriving bio diverse marine scape.

Three artists (Midhun Mohan, Ramkumar Kannadasan, Pooja Gupta), a coastal community representative (Sarita Fernandes), a film director and an impact producer got together to create this sculpture for coral rehabilitation in an effort to create a small sanctuary for marine life. The process was painstaking and exciting as it developed in detail and complexity with inputs from researchers, marine scientists and coastal communities. The final transformation took place at the SotoHaus workshop in Goa. Coastal Impact, the coral crusaders, helped to transport the installation to its final destination in the sea and transplanted the coral fragments as the penultimate act before nature takes over. Nitasha Kapahi video documented the entire process.

It is a matter of time before this piece of symbolic art evolves into a thriving coral reef and a home to the fishes.

This underwater sculpture is a result of an art residency inspired by the film Coral Woman.

Coral Woman, directed by Priya Thuvassery, has carved an enviable trajectory of awareness building by winning approximately 35 national and international awards. It has been screened at over 100 festivals across the globe and continues to be actively sought for screenings at schools, sustainability forums and governmental organisations. A small budget film has slowly and steadily built a loyal following over the past two years and its influence has been far reaching by sheer word of mouth.

The film tells the story of a 49 year old home maker, Uma Mani, who learnt diving so she could paint coral reefs. Her journey has become a testament to coral bleaching, climate change and the various influences that are altering the once flourishing coral habitat along the coast of Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu.

The success of this small documentary and its ability to influence young minds led to an impact campaign that created multiple avenues for awareness building, interaction and discussion. Collaborators and partners came forward at Good Pitch India 2020 to support the film in building its impact campaign. A functional website was put together by Rivev and 1Gen that allowed initiating a coral woman community and facilitating online events. A children’s illustrated book based on the documentary was published by Harper Collins thanks to Avid Learning’s Asad Laljee. The author, Lubaina Bandukwala, also drives interactive sessions around the book with young children.

The Art Residency that gave birth to an underwater sculpture was partnered by Coastal Impact, and Sotohaus. It was partially funded by grants like Inlaks, Pardicolor, Awesome on the Water, Hyundai Art for Hope and Exposure Labs. The second phase of the residency will see its culmination in March 2023 when a similar sculpture made of plastic and waste material will be displayed in museums and exhibition halls. The interactive land sculpture will screen the video documentation of the underwater installation where people can see the contrast and the irony of man vs nature.

As the film continues to be screened to audiences worldwide and builds its fan base among the youth, there is a slew of impact ideas waiting to take birth. One of them is a virtual toolkit about the marine ecosystem for use by schools. Another is a mini ecology festival structured around the film and art.

To support the Coral Woman Impact Project you can visit the website for Coral Woman and purchase a painting by Uma Mani. The proceeds will go to Uma Mani and The Coral Woman Impact Project.

The author is the Impact Producer for the film Coral Woman

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