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Coastline caution

31 Oct 2020 By HUBERT VAZ

‘Coastline – Community and Conservation’, an exhibition of paintings by Joana Mollet, a British-Portugueseartist in Muscat, will be inaugurated by H H Sayyid Theyazin bin Haitham al Said, Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, at Bait al Baranda, on November 2.  

The exhibition, presented in cooperation with H H Sayyid Taimur bin Shabib al Said, Managing Director, Hud Hud Travels, is the first virtual exhibition open to the public. It will also be available for viewing at the venue in small groups of not more than 4 members at a time (with prior appointment and mandatory wearing of masks), from November 2 to 5 between 9am and 4pm.  

The project brings together several of Joana Mollet’s paintings to celebrate the beauty of Oman’s coastline but also seeks to draw attention to the problem of beach litter with two installations made in collaboration with girls from Zahraa Primary School and British School Muscat. There will also be an online auction of one of Joana’s paintings – Masirah – to raise funds for the Environment Society of Oman which has a link in its website for bidding. 

The first installation wadi mat was made using litter found on beaches to show how plastic left behind by humans affects wildlife. The plastic mat symbolises the current degradation that is moving humankind towards a bleak future where nature is denuded. The second mat is made of traditional and biodegradable materials, representing hope for a future where beaches return to becoming clean and in harmony with nature. Only footprints are left behind. 

“This exhibition is about encouraging people to pick up after themselves, to not litter, to embrace biodegradable materials over plastics and to just switch their lives and be more conscious about their own footprints on the environment,” Joana told Muscat Daily on the eve of the exhibition, also attesting her sincere gratitude to H H Sayyid Taimur for his support of the entire project and helping to get the conservation message across. “Sayyid Taimur is passionate about this subject and communication of this message. The exhibition also empowers girls in Oman to be active in communicating this important conservation message,” she added

The paintings on display feature a series of abstract landscapes celebrating the beauty of Oman’s coastline whilst raising awareness about the problem of beach litter. The contrasting installations also draw attention to the problem of plastic pollution and encourage viewers to question their own choices – which future would they prefer for themselves, one devoid of nature or one wherein nature is well regarded?


Emotional attachment to nature

Joana Mollet, a self-trained artist best known for her abstract landscape paintings, has showcased her work around the world. Conservation, imagination and the distortions of memory are key to her work. “Through my paintings, I seek to remind the viewer of our emotional attachment to the natural world on a conscious and subconscious level. By rekindling our attachment to nature we can not only derive huge benefits for our wellbeing but also, importantly, begin to truly care about conserving it. I would like my work to serve as a call to action: to actively seek out these connections but also to be active in conserving the natural world,” She says. Excerpts from a brief chat: 


How excited are you that this exhibition (earlier scheduled to be held in April) is finally taking off? 

It’s really exciting that the project is finally taking off and I think, if we’ve learnt anything from this COVID-19 situation, it is that we have to adapt and change the way we work, although I would’ve loved to have a traditional opening with lots of people. The work really is beautiful when you see it is person. I am very happy to be able to use technology that is now available at our fingertips in Oman to be able to bring this to the comfort of everybody’s home. However, we will be happy to welcome people to view it at the gallery with prior appointment, in accordance with COVID-19 regulations. I’m sure the participating students will also be super excited to know that their work is going to be seen across Oman. 


What aspects of this project did you tackle during the long gap due to the lockdown?  

I used our lockdown time to refine my work and also to reflect more about the impact of our individual actions on the planet. We all have a part to play. Picking up litter is an easy and impactful way that every person can make a difference. 

Does this exhibition gain greater significance now, in the time of the pandemic? 

I think, the exhibition does now gain greater significance in the time of the pandemic mainly because we’ve had a chance to stop and think about the impact of less activity the world over. The sky has become cleaner, the air has become less polluted, and it hasn’t been so hot this year. And, we’ve seen what a difference it makes when we change our behavior and what a positive impact it can have on the natural world. So, I’d like to carry that message forward, that when we come out of this lockdown, we need to change out behaviour in many ways. This exhibition is about encouraging people to pick up after themselves, to not litter, to embrace biodegradable materials over plastics and to just switch their lives and be more conscious about their own footprints on the environment. 

How long will the exhibition be open for viewing? 

The exhibition will run until Thursday (November 5) at Bait al Baranda. However, it will also be available online on my website– after that. We encourage people as much as possible to make an appointment and come and see the exhibition. The virtual model is fantastic but there is nothing like seeing it in person. 

Who has supported you in this project? 

I’d like to thank my main sponsor, H H Sayyid Taimur bin Shabib al Said who believed in this project from the beginning and has really helped us to bring this message to the fore. I’m really happy that we’ve been able to use modern technology to bring this really important message into every body’s homes. I’m also grateful to Malik al Hinai, director of Bait al Baranda, for believing in this project and supporting us all the way. 


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