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WATCH: Marine biologist shares glowing gorilla’s secrets

WATCH: Marine biologist shares glowing gorilla’s secrets

Saturday 31 August 2019

WATCH: Marine biologist shares glowing gorilla’s secrets

Thousands of islanders have been captivated by the glow-in-the-dark gorilla of Greve de Lecq, but did you know that the design was created by a marine biologist-turned-artist inspired by glowing creatures under the sea?

And there are lots of other ‘secrets’ tucked away in Maria Tarrant’s intricately patterned ‘Jambo Sana’, whose name is inspired by a Swahili greeting.

Hailing from Greece, Maria moved to Jersey 16 years ago. As well as having a degree in art and design, she holds one in marine biology and worked in the field before moving to the island. She now enjoys a more creative occupation, drawing, painting and making installations.

Video: Maria talks about the inspirations behind her design.

For the 'Go Wild Gorilla' trail - launched by Durrell with the support of Express as media partner to raise funds for a new state-of-the-art gorilla house - Maria combined her two passions in a playful design. 

Jambo Sana, one of the 40 life-size gorillas currently in the wild around the island, is decked out in motifs inspired by African textile art.

“You can see humans with animals,” Maria explained in a video produced by Jambo Sana’s sponsor Sure. “The humans always they have masks or something that indicate they are animals and also the animals, on the other hand, they have legs or feet that indicate they take something from humans.

Jambo Sana close up

Pictured: Jambo Sana's design was inspired by African textile art and sea creatures.

Looking from afar, Jambo’s costume looks like an intricate mix of playful patterns, but upon closer examination, one would realise a hidden message: mixed in within the motifs are words that aim to invoke “a simplistic child-like innocence.” 

“All the writing is hidden in the design so that people can come read try to find in the design on one side or the other,” Maria said. 

Among such hidden messages is the phrase “the world is your oyster” which Maria included to give “a simple message for the future.”


Pictured: Maria has hidden messages all over Jambo's body. (Sure)

Maria also drew upon her work as marine biologist to create Jambo Sana’s livery. She created stories around sea creatures and animals dotted across the silverback’s body. 

“I draw the main character first and I add around him habitat, flowers birds, something for everyone’s imagination,” Maria explained.

But Maria also took inspiration from bioluminescence, a phenomenon common among sea creatures, to make Jambo even more special.


Pictured: Maria used luminescent paint to make Jambo glow in the dark. (Sure)

By using luminescent paint, the sculpture appears differently during the day and night, highlighting different aspects of the sculpture.

“In the morning the eyes are closed but at night it opens because of the fluorescent paint,” Maria said.

“This comes from the sea world, creatures have biological fluorescence and they glow during the night.”

Greve de Lecq Barracks

Pictured: Jambo Sana was originally placed by the barracks at Gréve de Lecq.

The mix of Maria’s eclectic influences seem to have caught the public’s imagination - so much so that Jambo was a victim of his own success, and recently had to be moved. He now resides close to the beach at Greve de Lecq.

“It’s strange to see him outside now and not inside” Maria commented on Jambo’s release. “It’s like he is safe somewhere else, not closed in a box. I opened the door and released him, he’s free.” 

Pictured top: Maria with her creation, Jambo Sana. (Sure)

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