Art & Marine Conservation on Thanda Island Gave Birth to a Mermaid Sculpture That Doubles As A Coral Nursery off the Coast of Tanzania
No, you’re not imagining things: That really is a mermaid basking beneath sun-brightened waters nearThanda Islandoff the Indian Ocean coast of Tanzania. It’s an artwork and a productive tool in the private island’s ongoing marine conservation work, which include growing and preserving the vulnerable coral reef that surround the island.
Created by Antigone Meda, Island Manager and ‘Head of Magic’ at Thanda Island, the dreamy, bigger-than-life-size concrete sculpture contributes to an expanding artificial reef that is part of an underwater coral nursery located beneath the waves of the Shungimbili Island Marine Reserve about 5 minutes by boat from the resort.
The piece is also the first of many mermaid sculptures that Meda intends to create to symbolize “the wonderful women that work on the Thanda Island team.” Made from environment-friendly concrete and cast on dry land in fiberglass molds, the sculpture is named “Rianne” for resident Marine Biologist Rianne Laan, who created the coral nursery in 2018.
Meda, who joined Thanda Island in 2016 and became Island Manager two years later, drew inspiration for her sculpture from the underwater artwork of British artist Jason Taylor. She only works on mermaid sculptures at night after her work is over, she says, “so this one took about two years. It was worth it – this was a dream project.”
Meanwhile, Laan’s marine conservation work around Thanda Island continues: She expects “Rianne,” who lies on her side supported by cinderblocks clutching corals beneath curling, shoulder-length hair, to be covered with newly grown corals in a few years. Guests of Thanda Island can see the progress and participate in various marine conservation initiatives on visits to the nursery, one of many waterborne activities available on the exclusive-use island.