Press release: WWF – Jen Riches
Judges selected Rachel Sawaya from over 350 entries as grand prize winner of WWF creative competition Ocean Views for her story, paying back the ocean (C) Lou Hatton WWF
Family bonds of love and loss, and a literal take on the idea of preserving our oceans, are at the heart of a highly original short story that has today been announced as the overall winning artwork in WWF-New Zealand’s national competition, Ocean:Views.
The announcement comes on World Oceans Day (8 June).
Over 350 New Zealanders across the country responded to WWF’ call for works of art reflecting on New Zealanders’ unique connection to our oceans, submitting creative works of music, film, writing, and visual art.
The Ocean:Views judging panel, including author Lloyd Jones and artists Otis Frizzell and Ali Teo, selected Wellingtonian Rachel Sawaya’s short story – Paying back the ocean – from the 354 entries as the overall winning work. The piece stood out for its creativity, originality and unique expression of New Zealanders’ connection to their oceans.
Sawaya’s story imagines people around the world treasuring and preserving the ocean, by scooping it up and taking it back home with them. Commenting on the inspiration for her story, Rachel said: “I wanted to think of the ocean as something that could be loved. Not in a traditional way, but something closer to family.”
Having recently lost her grandfather, Sawaya found herself wishing that she had the chance to know him better before he passed away – an idea that formed the basis of her short story: “I wanted people to get to know and love the ocean before it’s too late. The ocean is facing so much devastation with the plastic trash vortex, overfishing, and climate change. But it’s not too late to do something about it. In fact, it’s something we’ll regret if we don’t.”
Commenting on what stood out about Rachel’s winning work, Ocean:Views judge, Ocean Mercier, lecturer at Victoria University said: “It’s a very original and creative piece, and also subtle. The irony in painting a scenario of boxing up the ocean reveals how much the ocean means to us.”
The grand prize is a wildlife-watching trip for two to the Pacific Islands to see species such as whales and turtles that pass through New Zealand waters on their seasonal migrations. In keeping with the inspiration behind the story, Rachel has decided to take her mother with her on the trip.
Along with the grand prize, the judges selected winners of each of the four categories – creative writing, film, music and visual art. Brooke Singer from Wellington won the category prize for music with her song Claimed by the Sea, Danny Boulton of Marlborough Sounds won the short film category with In the spirit of Kaitiakitanga, and Neil Miller of Auckland won the visual art category for Swim to Me. The People’s Choice award was won by Alicia Young for her beautiful photograph of swimming in the sea.
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WWF launched the competition to celebrate New Zealand’s richly diverse seas and inspire the nation with the need for their greater protection. Currently, just 0.3% of New Zealand’s oceans are protected in marine reserves – areas of the ocean designated as off-limits to extractive activities such as fishing or mining – compared to around 20% of our land with equivalent protection.
Commenting on the winning entries, WWF-New Zealand Executive Director Chris Howe said: “I’m delighted to congratulate Rachel on her winning entry. I’m thrilled to see so many artists across the genres producing inspiring works of art, and my thanks and congratulations go out to all those who entered the competition. Each entry stands alone as a work of art, but together, the collection is a unique expression of how New Zealanders treasure our seas. I hope the creative works submitted will help inspire the nation with the need to take action and protect our oceans.”
You can read Rachel Sawaya’s Paying back the ocean and view all of the works submitted to Ocean:Views at wwf.org.nz/oceans
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