Mangroves from the Water, Zahidah

As an artist I see the importance and the beauty of the mangroves. I feel connected to nature, with a sense of responsibility to protect them by producing art highlighting their beauty and importance.  I’m very much aware that mangrove forests contain some of the highest carbon eating stocks of any forest type ( Also, that the forests cover around 2 per cent of the 2,000 kilometres of Victorian coastline (  Mangroves are important; the trees and the associated sea grasses are very effective in reducing carbon from the air and providing us with oxygen in our age of global warming.’ We hear from Artist Zahidah Zeytoun Millie.

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‘My family and I have been living in Geelong since last July having moved from the UAE.  I have started kayaking on the Barwon River; in Geelong, Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads; and also upon Swan Bay.  I have also visited the mangroves of Corio Bay.  I’m in search of the mangroves in order to sketch them using water colours. Interestingly, I find myself having to pick up plastic bags, just as I used to in the mangroves of the UAE.

‘I’m from the Mediterranean coast of Syria, currently a stable part of a country suffering from war since 2011 that has resulted in the fleeing of refugees around the world.  I am fortunate that my family is still living safely in Syria.  As an artist I can’t stop the war in Syria, but I can run a campaign to protect the mangroves and in doing so, protect the Earth.

‘I actually started painting mangroves in the UAE from a kayak around the time the war in Syria started.  I saw a connection between the war and the destruction I witnessed to the mangrove region near my home in Umm Al Quwain.  The resulting project included 250 sketches and three installation pieces: Coffee Morning Orchestra (pictured), the Self, Mangroves from the Water (over 250 small paintings).  My aim was to spread awareness about the mangroves.

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‘With a group of artists I started a team and we commenced a Mangroves from the Water blog and a social media campaign which I continue to run from Geelong.  A touring exhibition between 2014 and 2016 culminated in the 2017 Mangroves Festival, the first of its kind in the UAE and the first in the Arab region.  The initiative rose voluntarily from artists from the wider community supported by the Government of Umm Al Quwain.

‘Protecting the mangroves is not only for the welfare of our environment, but also for humanity.  Artists are able to lead change in social attitudes, just like the painter Henri Rousseau and the 19th Century American philosopher HD Thoreau.  The beauty of the Geelong region in colonial times features in the landscape paintings of Eugene von Guérard.  There is a strong link between creative people and preserving nature. Mangroves blog. We’re also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @mangrovesftw

‘I believe in the power of art and the strong message it can deliver.  By art we can make our voice loud and effective in protecting the mangroves in the world.’

Story and Photos: Zahidah Zeytoun Millie, one of our new team members. If you would like to join the Humans in Geelong team or if you have any great story ideas, contact us. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.