Surfers wave against the beach outside Oceanium, a scuba diving center and environmental organization in Dakar’s southern Plateau neighborhood. About 100 meters from the sea and 5 meters below, eight images rise from the seabed.
Dutch and Italian artists Mischa Sanders and Philipp Putzer created the sculptures during an art residency in Dakar.
VOA and other media could not visit the sculptures during a planned visit on Monday due to poor visibility and rough seas.
The works debuted at Dakar’s art biennial, which runs through Tuesday. The aim is to bring more awareness to the pollution that surrounds the sculptures, thereby encouraging a conversation about the environment.
Charlotte Thomas is Oceanium’s head of communications.
“You see, here in Senegal the pollution is everywhere,” Thomas said. “You go to Dakar and you see rubbish all around you. And with the rainy season coming, it goes into the sea. So, if we do not protect our land, we can not protect our sea.”
In addition to Senegal’s large plastic pollution, a surge in development projects over the past decade has changed the coastline and eroded fragile ecosystems. Fish stocks declined as commercial and fishing boats continued to use unsustainable fishing practices.
In 2015, the government passed a law banning disposable plastic, but it was never enforced. Since then, versions of the law have been adopted, including in 2020 when legislation specifically targeted plastic cups, straws, plates, bags and bottles, but it also never came into force.
Rodwan El Ali, born in Senegal, is the diving director of Oceanium and for the underwater exhibition. He has spent most of his life diving in Dakar.
El Ali said in French: “I live underwater, and I can see that the areas that were so beautiful when I was young are not only no fish left today, but they have been replaced by plastic bottles, cans and all kinds of things. of things. It hurts me. ”
El Ali said he saw many dolphins, whales and sharks and caught fish that were so big. Now, he said, there is hardly anything left.
“We are in a country where the environment is not a priority,” he said. “Can be [politicians] mention it in speeches, but in reality they do nothing. Nobody monitors, nobody does anything. You can go out to sea and do what you want and no one will stop you. ”
Since the sculptures were submerged in December, this has given rise to their own ecosystem. The clay structures were covered with fires, shellfish and hedgehogs. Fish visit regularly to find shelter and feed on algae.
Oumy Diaw is a specialist in contemporary art. What she finds most interesting about the installation, she said, is that the statues look like coral – a unique sight in Dakar’s barren waters.
“The bay is just full of sand, there are absolutely no corals,” Diaw said. “So, it’s interesting to see how contemporary art tries to mimic what nature can bring by exploring natural ingredients that can coexist with the environment.”
That Dakar is the contemporary art capital of the continent gives the work a particularly large platform, she said.
Organizers say they plan to commission local artists to create new sculptures that will be added to the exhibition over time.