The Plastic Earth Mandala was a collaborative community art installation that I facilitated for the 2013 World Environment Day Celebration at the St Kilda Town Hall. It was made by children and adults, who added their touch of creativity within the whole. There is so much to learn from these communal experiences!
What is a Mandala?
A Mandala is a sacred space that can represent both the outer and the inner world. The practice of making mandalas originated in India more than 2,500 years ago and today it is still commonly used in many Buddhist rituals. The Buddhist monks represent in these mandalas the world in a perfect balance, with beautiful intricate designs made with colored sands. It can take many days to complete this laborious representation of the world, but once it’s finished and blessed it is dismantled as a metaphor of the impermanence of all things. Bits of sands are gives to the participants and observers as a blessing and the rest is thrown into a nearby river (or water), so that the blessings may reach the oceans and our entire planet.
I decided that I wanted our plastic mandala to last a bit longer, to showcase how unlike sand, this man made material is not so impermanent, it will actually last long after we are all gone. The mandala will be exhibited at the town hall till the end of this month. Another important difference is that we can not dump it into the Yarra after taking it apart, since instead of a blessing this action would be reckless and dangerous to so many of the inhabitants of our oceans. The materials will be saved for another art project: Be prepared in July to be part of the making of the weedy sea dragon, a mobile exhibition that will visit many schools around Melbourne teaching them how to take care of the Port Phillip Bay.
The Buddhist monks express in their designs their peaceful minds, their compassionate hearts and their total respect for everyone and everything in the planet. I hoped that in our making of a mandala it would also help our community develop these admirable traits. Our end result was far more chaotic, like our world and our minds. It was still a beautiful, colorful and strong way to represent what these plastics are doing to our environment. It spurred conversations with the onlookers about these materials and it showcased how they can be used to engage the community, specially the future generations, in reusing these plastics creatively. Here are some pictures of their creations:
A way to teach ecology…
A note for those who work with children, this is an activity that they really enjoyed even the younger ones (do not attempt with small children that still put everything into their mouths). It is easy to gather the materials if the kids themselves are asked to save their bottle caps, straws, and even those old toys that are broken down, can add a nice touch. Ask parent to wash plastic well, you can sanitize by soaking in soapy water with a touch of bleach for a couple of days. They really enjoy creating characters and the easiest way to glue these plastic elements is with a hot glue gun (get and adult to this part for them). They will love their creations so much they might have to make two one for the mandala and one to take home. It’s a great way to introduce recycling, reusing, plastic pollution, marine wildlife, geography etc.
You are Invited!
I will make a post on how to make these marvelous fishes using PET bottles, Plastic Bags and Foods Packaging very soon. If you are in Melbourne and would like to come along this next Saturday 22nd of June to the Port Philip Ecocentre (10:30-1) we will be making a bunch of these little creatures for an installation for the Community Bay Care Action Celebration. This celebration will take place on 25th of June (6-8) at the Front Gallery of the St Kilda Baths, If you would like to attend you must book your tickets here: Try Booking
The final lesson:
On a personal level I learn and grow so much each time I facilitate a community installation. I learn that coming in with preconceived ideas can be painful. It is not a space where you can really control anything, and the more I learn to surrender the more I will enjoy making these communal pieces. It’s a great lesson to apply to life in general. SURRENDER AND ENJOY! A heart felt huge THANKS to Manuel Mejia my husband for filming this special day, to my friend and artist Paul Muller for his invaluable help, to Luisma, Steve, Becki and Eli for their contribution and to all the beautiful children and their parents for participating !