Mission Blue is proud to partner with Geo Cloete!
By: Geo Cloete, Artist
The ocean already beckoned me to spend my life with it long before I saw it for the first time. I was born miles away from the nearest coast. Yet deep in inside me, I knew that my life’s calling was linked to the ocean, and so I followed the long and winding road to where it meets the blue yonder.
I remember the day I arrived at the ocean crystal clear; paddling out, the sense of having arrived at home, was overwhelming. And when the ocean wrapped its arms around me, with a perfect wave, I knew that I was not only home… but I had also been warmly received.
For the next few years, the ocean spoilt me with gifts of joy and visual delights to last a lifetime. Although I cherish each one of these special moments, there was a voice inside me that said something was lacking, and I realised that it was a desire to be able to also give back to the ocean.
Over the years, and many hours I have spent in the ocean, I learnt that it is filled with breath-taking vistas as well as amazingly beautiful creatures. Sadly, I also learnt how man is abusing the ocean; through pollution, over-fishing and the destruction of vitally important marine environments. Many of these destructive actions are the direct result of greed, but these issues can also be attributed to a lack of knowledge and compassion. The saying, out of sight out of mind, rings so true for how the ocean is treated.
My life-journey has taken me down a path where I developed and honed my artistic talents and the picture of how I would be able to give back began to take shape. It has been said that we love that which we know, and as I believe that conservation “starts at home”, I could not think of a more fitting manner, to promote marine conservation, than to capture the marvels of the underwater world in an artistic manner, and share those with as big an audience as possible.
In essence, there are two routes that one can follow when striving to raise awareness and promote conservation. One can either highlight the horrors and devastation caused by man, or alternatively choose to showcase the amazing diversity and beauty’s to be found in nature. Although I recognise that both play an essential role in conservation, I was instinctively drawn to the more positive route of sharing the beauty of the underwater world. Humans tend to love that which they find beautiful… and that which they love, they want to protect and care for. It was an inspiring discovery to learn about Mission Blue and the message of hope it spreads, as it closely aligns with the message I have been spreading.
As a proud Capetownian I have promoted the rich and diverse ocean life, to be found in the coastal waters off this unique peninsula, by sharing my work, and detailed information about each subject. In 2015, Dr. Silvia Earle visited South Africa to work with local communities. The fruits of that labour saw six new Hope Spots been declared along the country’s coastline. I know most of these areas intimately, and so, as part of my partnership with Mission Blue, my aim for my future blog posts will be to take a closer look at the various South African Hope Spots.
Conservation in my humble opinion should always follow a holistic approach. The tiniest of creature deserves our respect and protection as much as any other. It’s one of the reasons why I support Hope Spots, as they are all inclusive.
We are sadly faced with the dark reality that certain species require extra special efforts to protect them from extinction.
Presently one such marine species is sharks. Hollywood productions, and misleading media coverage, have instilled a fear of sharks in most people. This fear of sharks has made them a target group. Conservative estimates show that 100 million sharks are killed by humans each year. That means that a staggering 11 000 sharks die every hour. A large percentage of these sharks die a brutally for shark fin soup, as their fins are butchered off and they are dumped back into the ocean while still alive.
Some of my most treasured memories are the many hours I have spent with different species of sharks in their natural environment. These times taught in me a completely opposite view to what the media led me to believe. After learning the devastating statistics, and inhumane fishing practises, I am compelled to do even more to help change the perception people have of sharks, and through this, hopefully garner more support for their conservation.
In 2015 I founded Apex7, with the aim to create an awareness of sharks by highlighting the aesthetical beauty of these awesome creatures. Once more my artistic talents were put to task. Presently an expanding contemporary jewellery range, inspired by the beautiful sleek curves of sharks, has been designed for Apex7. The project sets out to actively contribute to shark conservation. 25% of Apex7’s profit is donated to projects with a proven track-record of actively protecting sharks.
Reflecting back on my journey, I do appreciate the value of my in-land origins. It has left me with an appreciation for how few people have a connection with the ocean, and an understanding of how to reach out to those people. Giving is wonderfully rewarding. Knowing that there are still so many people out there, with whom I can still share the wonders of the ocean through my art and conservation messages, is a very strong motivator. I feel that once exposed to the beauty, many will learn to love the ocean and its creatures. Ultimately I can only hope, to have given back to the ocean a fraction of what I have been blessed to receive from it.