Colombian Underwater 'Art Gallery' Serves as Coral Home

Since the beginning of the year, the world has witnessed a massive coral bleaching episode in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Luis ACOSTA / AFP
Since the beginning of the year, the world has witnessed a massive coral bleaching episode in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Luis ACOSTA / AFP
TT

Colombian Underwater 'Art Gallery' Serves as Coral Home

Since the beginning of the year, the world has witnessed a massive coral bleaching episode in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Luis ACOSTA / AFP
Since the beginning of the year, the world has witnessed a massive coral bleaching episode in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Luis ACOSTA / AFP

On the Caribbean seafloor, an unusual sculpture gallery is taking shape with an equally unusual purpose: to provide homes for corals under threat from tourism and climate change.
Created by potters Hugo Osorio and Pedro Fuentes, 25 figures so far form a sort of artificial reef in the blue waters around the paradisiacal Isla Fuerte, off the coast of Colombia, AFP said.
They stand 1.5 meters (almost five feet) tall, scattered at a depth of about six meters around the seafloor, attracting visitors -- mostly fish, but also divers.
The statues have been placed there since 2018 under an initiative named MUSZIF, started by Tatiana Orrego, a fashion designer and island resident.
The plan is for another 25 to follow.
"When I discovered the deterioration of the island's natural reefs, I saw in the art project a possibility to protect and enhance the life of corals," Orrego told AFP.
Orrego had seeded the clay sculptures with baby corals, and watched as they took off.
The statues are the "ideal substrate" for the marine invertebrates to grow on, added the creator of Colombia's first underwater art gallery.
Coral bleaching
Since the beginning of the year, the world has witnessed a massive coral bleaching episode in both the northern and southern hemispheres -- the fourth such global event on record and the second in 10 years, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
These events cause corals to die off, affecting the ecosystems that rely on them as well as tourism and food security.
The culprit, according to the NOAA: warming oceans.
Colombia's corals are spread over a zone equivalent to 100,000 football fields, but more than two-thirds have already suffered from bleaching, according to the environment ministry.
Other problems include damage to reefs by divers and tourists directly.
Tourists have been known to break off pieces of coral to bring to the surface, while others cause damage by walking on the structures.
"People don't understand that coral is a living being," said Orrego.
The Isla Fuerte gallery receives about 2,000 human visitors a year.
It offers an "alternative space to take tourists without overloading the natural reefs," Orrego added.
Osorio and Fuentes, who create the coral-housing statues on Orrego's commission, base their designs on the ancestral creations of the Zenu people, who inhabited the Colombian Caribbean before the Spanish arrived.
"All this comes from our roots," Fuentes, 48, told AFP.
"We continue with the culture so that it does not get lost," added Osorio, 59.



Saudi Arabia Participates in UNESCO World Heritage Committee in India

The Saudi delegation, led by the advisor to the Saudi National Commission for Education, Culture and Science, Engineer Mohammed bin Youssef Al-Aidaroos, participated in various activities during the session that were supported by the Kingdom. (SPA)
The Saudi delegation, led by the advisor to the Saudi National Commission for Education, Culture and Science, Engineer Mohammed bin Youssef Al-Aidaroos, participated in various activities during the session that were supported by the Kingdom. (SPA)
TT

Saudi Arabia Participates in UNESCO World Heritage Committee in India

The Saudi delegation, led by the advisor to the Saudi National Commission for Education, Culture and Science, Engineer Mohammed bin Youssef Al-Aidaroos, participated in various activities during the session that were supported by the Kingdom. (SPA)
The Saudi delegation, led by the advisor to the Saudi National Commission for Education, Culture and Science, Engineer Mohammed bin Youssef Al-Aidaroos, participated in various activities during the session that were supported by the Kingdom. (SPA)

Saudi Arabia -- represented by the Saudi National Committee for Education, Culture and Science and the Kingdom’s permanent delegation to UNESCO and the Heritage Commission -- is participating in the 46th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

The session is taking place from July 21 to 31 in New Delhi, India, and will be attended by representatives from 195 member states who ratified the World Heritage Convention of 1972.

The Saudi delegation, led by the advisor to the Saudi National Commission for Education, Culture and Science, Engineer Mohammed bin Youssef Al-Aidaroos, participated in various activities during the session that were supported by the Kingdom.

The delegation delivered speeches highlighting Saudi Arabia's interest, support, and contributions to UNESCO's efforts to preserve world heritage. Some of the activities included discussions on the digital heritage platform, capacity building in African countries, and an event on Islamic World Heritage organized by the Islamic World Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (ICESCO).

Additionally, the Saudi delegation met with representatives from other official delegations attending the session to strengthen cooperation in heritage conservation.

The digital heritage platform, a collaborative effort between Saudi Arabia and UNESCO, is an online platform that utilizes cutting-edge digital technologies to explore UNESCO's cultural and natural world heritage sites as well as intangible cultural heritage.

The World Heritage Committee will review a proposal to add 27 new sites from various regions worldwide to the World Heritage List. It will also assess the preservation status of 124 sites currently included on the list, including 56 that are categorized as being in danger.

The World Heritage Committee, consisting of representatives from 21 countries elected by the 195 parties to the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage, oversees the implementation of the convention.