‘What I have been preparing to say is, that in wilderness is the preservation of the world.’ HD Thoreau
“I moved to Geelong from the United Arab Emirates in 2017. I was happy to discover the mangrove forests at Barwon Heads and began to learn the history of the land around my new home. I researched how the mangrove landscapes of the Port Phillip and coastal fringe areas were irrevocably transformed by colonial occupation. I also discovered that such change has caused a loss of biodiversity that unfortunately is now a feature of Australia’s ecology.” Zahidah Zeytoun Millie tells us more.
“Mangroves – Vanguards of the Sea. Ecologically important in linking land and sea, mangroves are part of Nature’s wilderness. The estuarine forests along northern Australia’s coastline are at risk, as stated by the Australian Government, Department of Environment and Energy. In southern Australia, though, where wilderness areas have suffered all so greatly, mangrove forests are rarely noticed or celebrated. A common perception of the beauty of the Victorian coastline is white sandy beaches, not an estuarine forest of mangrove trees. Searching tourism and environment websites of the Barwon Heads region where mangroves surround Lake Connewarre I find information about ocean greens relating to golf clubs and white sandy beaches for surfing, swimming, or walking. One can be amazed by plants like bull kelp, sandstone arches and sponge gardens, yet nothing about mangroves.
“A question often comes to mind: why the mangrove forest is not considered a place to visit, and to enjoy for its abundant wildlife? Kayaking within mangroves provides a wonderful opportunity to contemplate birds, crabs and fish. How can mangrove forests be so neglected? Surely, they cannot be considered ugly!
“As an artist and a curator, I believe the mangroves story deserves a collective story like the mangroves roots intertwine and interconnect. By gathering a team of collaborating artists from different backgrounds and using a variety of media, I have curated a festival of multimedia art that surrounds the viewer and depicts the story of the mangroves and wetlands. My aim is to confront the viewer and to touch their emotions to feel deeply about the strong connection between humanity and the surrounding natural world.
“The artists intend to present a multi-disciplinary art exhibition of works set on the theme Mangroves from the Water. The project members approach the theme with a fascinating range of media: impressionist water colours from a kayak, paintings, short films, weaving, sculpture, performance dance and an installation of printed textiles.
“Our exhibition is very grateful for the support of the City of Greater Geelong and also community support in the Geelong region and abroad including Humans in Geelong and the Barwon Estuary Project (Students of Barwon Heads Primary School), and also with the student environmental group Kids Thrive of Northern Bay College in Corio. The Sharjah Heritage Institute from the UAE is the exhibition’s ongoing supporter providing heritage books, a folk/human connection to mangroves, magazines and an Arab majlis (sitting place). The connection is ongoing as the Institute is to donate these exhibits to the School of Humanities and Social Studies at Deakin University.
“We were planning to open on 26 July 2021, International Day for the Preservation of Mangrove Ecosystems. However, with the extended lockdown the exhibition will open on Saturday 7 August and close on Wednesday 18 August. It can be viewed daily from 11am – 4pm at the Gordon Gallery, 2 Fenwick St, Geelong.
“I will share my experience in workshops. Participating artists will conduct workshops in printing, painting and storytelling.
“Mangroves from the Water started as an art campaign in the UAE in 2014 with a series of multimedia group art exhibitions and a 2017 Mangroves Festival. The art campaign is to continue from International Mangroves Day 26 July 2021 in Geelong, Australia.”
Zahidah Zeytoun Millie,
‘Mangroves from the Water’ founder & curator