CEL­E­BRAT­ING OMANI WILDLIFE

UK-based con­ser­va­tion artist Violet As­tor’s char­coal ren­der­ings on re­cy­cled pa­per in­clude masala tea, be­tel nut and Salalah soil in ef­forts to use nat­u­ral and eth­i­cally sourced ma­te­ri­als

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE - Trid­wip K Das

An ex­hi­bi­tion ti­tled ‘Wild Oman’ open­ing on Novem­ber 4 at the Sayyid Faisal bin Ali Mu­seum – the Nat­u­ral His­tory Mu­seum – in the Min­istry of Her­itage and Cul­ture cel­e­brates Omani wildlife through char­coal draw­ings made by UK-based con­ser­va­tion artist Violet As­tor. Held in as­so­ci­a­tion with En­vi­ron­ment So­ci­ety of Oman, ‘Wild Oman’ is open to the pub­lic from Novem­ber 5 to 7, and will move to Bait al Baranda on Novem­ber 10 where it’ll show till Novem­ber 30.

Di­vided into four cat­e­gories – Desert, Moun­tain, Sea and Sky - ‘Wild Oman’ cov­ers the di­verse wildlife of the sul­tanate in 12 large and 20 small char­coal ren­der­ings. The big­gest draw­ing in the col­lec­tion is a 68cm X 87cm piece of an Ara­bian leop­ard.

Violet trav­els the world to draw en­dan­gered species and col­lab­o­rate with wildlife con­ser­va­tion projects to raise aware­ness and funds for their sur­vival. Since 2017, when she worked on a tiger and leop­ard con­ser­va­tion project in In­dia, she has trav­elled to three other coun­tries col­lab­o­rat­ing with lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Last Fe­bru­ary, Violet worked on a project to rein­tro­duce East­ern quolls – a mar­su­pial na­tive to Aus­tralia ex­tinct on the main­land since the 1960s - back into the wild. A month later, she trav­elled along the north­ern coast of Pa­pua New Guinea where she was only the sec­ond or third white per­son the in­dige­nous peo­ple had seen. Pro­ceeds from her art­work fol­low­ing the trip went to Sur­vival In­ter­na­tional, a hu­man rights or­gan­i­sa­tion that helps tribal peo­ple de­fend their rights, pro­tect their lands and de­ter­mine their own fu­tures. Also in 2018, Violet col­lab­o­rated in a project in In­done­sia to save orang­utans threat­ened by de­for­esta­tion re­sult­ing from log­gers clear­ing up land for palm oil plan­ta­tions.

Violet vis­ited Oman in Jan­uary this year, when she joined a project un­der­taken by the Di­wan of Royal Court’s Of­fice for Con­ser­va­tion of the En­vi­ron­ment in satel­lite tag­ging Steppe ea­gles, fol­lowed by a visit to leop­ard ter­ri­tory with wildlife bi­ol­o­gist Dr An­drew Spal­ton, Ad­viser for En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs in the Di­wan of Royal Court.

How­ever, she wasn’t lucky enough to see all of the wildlife with her own eyes. “The leop­ards are very elu­sive, and there are only 50-70 of them left in the wild, so I didn’t ac­tu­ally see one. I used im­ages from cam­era traps to draw the iden­ti­fy­ing mark­ings of these leop­ards. The mark­ings of the cam­era trap im­ages and my draw­ings are ex­actly the same,” Violet said.

In keep­ing with her ef­forts in con­ser­va­tion, Violet draws on re­cy­cled pa­per from cof­fee cups and rat­tles off shock­ing stats with ef­fect. “Six­teen bil­lion dis­pos­able cof­fee cups are used ev­ery year; 6.5mn trees are cut down to make these cups us­ing 4bn gal­lons of wa­ter and enough en­ergy to power 54,000 homes for a year,” she stated.

Violet holds talks on the side­lines of her ex­hi­bi­tions in which she elab­o­rates on what peo­ple can do to pro­tect their nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment. “It’s quite a big bat­tle but some of the changes aren’t as big as they might seem – it’s not ask­ing the im­pos­si­ble of peo­ple. It’s be­ing mind­ful. If ev­ery­one makes a small shift, to­gether we can make a big change.

“The en­vi­ron­ment isn’t ask­ing peo­ple to change who they are – it’s just mak­ing a few lit­tle tweaks in their life­style. If ev­ery­one was to take a can­vas bag for shop­ping, that alone is go­ing to make a very big change.

And it’s not hard to take a re­us­able cof­fee mug with you,” Violet said.

Also keep­ing in line with the cause of con­ser­va­tion, be­sides us­ing eth­i­cally sourced ma­te­ri­als, Violet in­cludes nat­u­ral el­e­ments found in the en­vi­ron­ment of her sub­jects. In In­done­sia, she grated and boiled yel­low root to make nat­u­ral paint for the orange-brown colour of orang­utans. In In­dia, she tinted her can­vas with masala tea and painted tiger fur us­ing be­tel nut and turmeric. “In Oman, I col­lected soil from Salalah – leop­ard ter­ri­tory in the Dho­far moun­tain range - and mixed it with lin­seed oil to get the colour of the soil on the pa­per on which I have drawn some of the pieces,” she in­formed.

A for­mer so­cial worker, Violet’s en­gage­ment with art was a twist of fate. She con­tracted Lyme dis­ease - caused by tick bite - in 2012 on a hol­i­day in Bali. House­bound for three and a half years, art helped her heal. She counts her ill­ness as a bless­ing in dis­guise.

The en­vi­ron­ment isn’t ask­ing peo­ple to change who they are – it’s just mak­ing a few lit­tle tweaks in their life­style

Violet As­tor

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