“In the Mangrove Painting Studio 

This installation “Tidal Forests” was part of an exhibition I made in Yangon after 14 months research and work in the Irrawaddy Delta Mangrove reforestation project. “In the Mangrove Painting Studio.” This video shows the technique that I used to paint these large canvases. The initial studies that I made in the mangroves were used as references and the canvases evolved from a long time spent in the Mangroves studying the older warrior like tree structures and young seedlings.

I stretched 17 six foot canvases and worked first with a masking fluid. These areas were masked so that as I lay the layers of ink the masked areas remain unstained. When the final layers were dry the latex like masking fluid was rubbed off the surface.

The 17 canvases hang in the round and the doorway has a shredded canvas so that as you walk into the space the roots of a giant Mangrove tree brush against your body. A sound recording of the Mangroves plays in a loop. You hear the sound of a boatman singing a song as he rows through the water, the insects and birds are singing and then comes the roar of a Cyclone storm. In the opposite bay to the entrance you look out to a storm at sea where a lone Mangrove Tree battles surrounded by the ocean.

In 2008 Cyclone Nargis swept over the Bay of Bengal and across the Irrawaddy Delta, killing 130,000 people and displacing many more.Nothing broke the power of the cyclone: the deforestation of the Mangroves exposed the villagers to the devastating force of the tropical storm. Only 16% of Mangroves remain in this region.

The painting below is of the Thor Heyerdahl Climate Park in Myanmar’s tide country – a region called Magyi. I used this quote from The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh for this piece as it powerfully generates hope for the prospects of the mangrove reforestation projects.

Quote: ‘But here in the tide country, transformation is the Rule of Life:  rivers stray from week to week, and islands are made and unmade in days. In other places forests take centuries, even millennia, to regenerate; but mangroves can recolonize a denuded island in ten to fifteen years. Could it be the very rhythms of the earth were quickened here so that they unfolded at an accelerated pace?”
― Amitav GhoshThe Hungry Tide

This coverage of the Exhibition “Mangroves The Forests of the Tide” finishes with an interview with Win Maung expert forester from World View International Foundation who describes the challenges and achievements of the Reforestation.