Thanda Island, off the Indian Ocean coast of Tanzania, has introduced an underwater mermaid sculpture that doubles as a tool in the private island’s ongoing marine conservation work, which includes growing and preserving the vulnerable coral reef that surrounds the island.

Created by Antigone Meda, island manager and “Head of Magic” at Thanda Island, the bigger-than-life-size concrete sculpture contributes to an expanding artificial reef that is part of an coral nursery beneath the waves of the Shungimbili Island Marine Reserve about 5 minutes by boat from the resort. 

The piece is also the first of many mermaid sculptures that Meda intends to create to symbolize “the wonderful women that work on the Thanda Island team.” Made from environment-friendly concrete and cast in fiberglass molds, the sculpture is named “Rianne” for resident marine biologist Rianne Laan, who created the coral nursery in 2018.

Meda, who joined Thanda Island in 2016 and became island manager two years later, drew inspiration for the sculpture from the underwater artwork of British artist Jason Taylor. She only works on mermaid sculptures at night after her work is over, she said, “so this one took about two years. It was worth it — this was a dream project.” 

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