Tue | Feb 25, 2020

Young artist makes a profound statement on coral reefs

Published:Sunday | April 9, 2017 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju
Anna-K Cuffe is a picture of concentration as she focuses on getting the details right for a section of her graduation exhibit ‘Coral Reefs in Crisis’ which will be displayed at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts on Saturday, June 3.
Concerned that the finer details of her artistic rendition might not pass the scrutiny of marine biologists, Anna-K Cuffe has invested a lot of time in research to inform the final product of her sculpture, which is part of the thesis ‘Coral Reefs in Crisis’, to ensure that she gets it right.

The date of the graduation exhibition at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts is still two months away, but one of the exhibits, though still some way from completion, is creating waves.

After collecting a symbolic cheque for $60,000 from COK Sodality Co-operative Credit Union at a members meeting in Half-Way Tree, St Andrew, recently, Anna-K Cuffe used her thank you speech to share with the audience the importance of the bursary to completing her final, year work of art for the June 3 exhibition.

Members of the audience were heartened by the news that the final-year Bachelor of Fine Arts student, a ceramic sculptor-in-training, was so concerned about the poor state of coral reefs in the Caribbean that she committed to using her craft to get a message out to the world about the urgent need for change.

When Arts & Education caught up with her at the School of The Visual Arts recently, this young artist for her representation of the diverse underground ecosystems held together by calcium carbonate structures.

"I look at different online pictures of coral reefs and try to figure out how to make it as realistic as I can," she said in between grafting on new pieces of the structure.

"I try to create work that has a personal connection to me. So I love the ocean have always been a swimmer. I used to go scuba diving. I do snorkelling and everything, so I have a connection with the ocean. It makes me feel calm, and because I love them (coral reefs) so much, I decided to look into how they are important to us, rather than just their beauty, but also for everything else they contribute to us.


Important to us


the Kingston native shared, "They are starting to deteriorate due mainly to careless human activities. So, basically, I wanted to build a personal connection with the viewer, who might not be able to go underground to see what is happening, so that they will begin to advocate saving the coral reefs because they are important to us" .

The three-tiered ceramic sculpture, upon completion, will be 7ft high, 8ft wide, and 2 1/2 feet deep. Starting at the highest point at the extreme left showcasing healthy coral, the formation will continue in descending order, showing dying coral, and eventually, dead ones. However, that is the easy part and the hard work actually begins after all this is in place.

She said: "I want to create a marine environment so that when you go in there, you feel like you are under the ocean. So I will play upon the other senses, not just sight, but sound and smell. I'll play like the sound of the ocean, and there is something you can do to replicate the smell of the ocean, too. So I want to do all those things and also to have the waves, underwater movement projected on to the walls."

Then when I dared to question her commitment to such accuracy for a good final-year grade, Anna-K's passion came roaring through as she articulated her work progress.

"I'm very detailed, meticulous, so the healthy section is taking a little long because I am trying to show it as best as I can. The dead section is finished because it's simpler because it's basically just rubble, and the dying section is almost basically finished, so I really have to work on mostly the live section.

"It's that size because if it's small, I don't think people are going to really appreciate what's happening. Actually, I don't live near the beach or anything. I live deep in town near Barbican - grew up there all my life. I think it started off with the pool because I was swimming from I was maybe seven, maybe younger. Floating on the top of the ocean and feeling the waves pushing you back and forth, it's relaxing.

"I want to enact a positive change so because they (coral reefs) are under the water, I'm bringing them up so that people who can't go diving or scuba diving, or whatever, can actually see it that this is what's happening - and I would hope that they would be moved to begin to advocate for the changes to stop the decline in one of our more invaluable marine resources."