Pillars of the sea

It all started with an idea to create an artwork that is awe-inspiring and at the same time portray a message that resonates with both locals and tourists alike. The artwork should embody the spirit of the Oceanus Waterfront Mall. It should hold great significance and it should be iconic.

Iconic it was. What resulted from a mere idea was the creation of four multi coloured hand-cut mosaic columns, known as the “Pillars of the Sea”. Each column is approximately 18.5 meters in height and spans four floors, from the floor of the concourse level to the ceiling of the second floor. The towering height of these columns earned it the title as “The Tallest Hand-Cut Mosaic Columns in Malaysia” by the Malaysian Book of Records.

The monumental task of building the Pillars of Colour was given to Penang-based Company, Sculpture At Work – the only UNESCO award winning company in the country to have done similar kinds of hand-cut mosaic projects. However, while the company has worked with pieces on flat surfaces, this is the first time it had dealt with a curved surface. The creation of the columns took 1 year from the conception of its idea to the piecing together of every cut mosaic tile on the pillar. The images were first drawn and then computer generated. Once done, the team had to mould and cast the pillars before attempting to stick on the hand-cut mosaic tiles piece by piece.

Every piece of mosaic tiles were well thought-out and positioned. When looked at as a whole, observers will notice that certain pieces of mosaic tiles are gleaming. This is deliberately placed in order to create a 3D effect of movement. It is to simulate the movement of the sea creatures underwater.

Each column depicts one sea creature that finds its home in our waters – the dolphin, the turtle, the jellyfish and the stingray. The depiction of these sea creatures serve to create awareness about the problems our marine life are facing due to man-made problems of pollution, overfishing and illegal poaching.

The creation of these larger-than-life images serve to remind us that our waters are home to some of the most fascinating creatures in the world, and while we are lucky to see it in our lifetimes, it may not be the case for the generations to come if we do not continue our efforts to safeguard them.

Dolphins

Dolphins are intelligent and highly social animals. There are 27 species of whales, dolphins, porpoise and dugong recorded in Malaysian waters. In Sabah, many species of dolphins have been sighted. Most notably, the Irrawady Dolphins are commonly seen along the Kinabatangan River in Sandakan and Cowie Bay in Tawau. Unfortunately, due to depletion of prey resources, pollution and increasing loss of habitat, at least six species of dolphin found in Sabah waters are in danger of extinction.

Sea Turtles

Sea turtles are among the most endangered sea creatures worldwide, with their population declining rapidly over the years. These highly migratory animals are believed to have existed for some 200 million years. There are five species of marine turtles found in Malaysia with three of them nesting in Sabah. They include the Green turtle, the Hawskbill turtle and the Olive Ridley turtle. Excessive loss of breeding and nesting habitat as well as illegal poaching of turtle eggs have threatened the survival of the sea turtles.

Stingray

While many stingray species’ populations are still considered healthy, the Giant Freshwater Stingray is under serious decline in Asian countries such as Thailand and Cambodia where it used to be commonly found. The Giant Freshwater Stingray is considered the largest freshwater fish in the world, growing up to 1.9 meters in length and reaching up to 600kg in weight. The species is found in the Kinabatangan and Buket rivers in Sabah. Overfishing and deforestation which leads to a loss of habitat have put the Giant Stingrays on the decline.

Jellyfish

The jellyfish aren’t considered an endangered breed, though some of its species are close to extinction. In fact, on the contrary, the numbers of jellyfishes that swim our ocean are higher now than ever before. The rise in the number of jellyfishes has plenty to do with climate change and the problem of over-fishing. Jellyfishes thrive in warmer waters. Furthermore, overfishing reduces the jellyfish’s sea competitors and its predators. In short, the unwanted increase of the number of jellyfish is directly linked to human actions. The rising number of jellyfish is making it increasingly dangerous for us to swim in the seas. The jellyfish reminds us of the problems that we are helping to perpetrate that has a direct impact not only on our surroundings, but also on us.

The Pillars of the Sea are the pride of the Oceanus Waterfront Mall and the pride of the people of Sabah. They are iconic pillars that will be admired for many years to come!

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