From Shark Attack Survivor to Conservation Advocate: Benzie's Tribute to Paul de Gelder

From Shark Attack Survivor to Conservation Advocate: Benzie's Tribute to Paul de Gelder

As National Ocean's Month unfolds, greenteaHAWAII honors those who tirelessly dedicate their lives to marine conservation. Among these passionate advocates is Benzie, a Queensland artist and free diver whose work brings a powerful message of hope and transformation. Awareness of shark activity is on the rise recently from notable injuries and tragedies in Florida and Hawaii, but Benzie's subject helps us contemplate our relationship to the oceanic predator. 

The Inspiration Behind "Lighting Up Change"

Benzie's art translates by illuminating an extraordinary story of survival and dedication. In 2009, Australian Navy diver Paul de Gelder faced a near-fatal encounter with a bull shark during a counter-terrorism exercise in Sydney Harbour. Losing two limbs in the attack, de Gelder's life took an unexpected turn towards advocating for the very creatures that almost ended his life. His unwavering commitment to shark and marine conservation resonated deeply with Benzie.

"What inspires me about him is that he was attacked by a bull shark but now dedicates his whole life to conservation, awareness, and education to save the sharks that almost killed him," Benzie shared (ABC News Australia). This profound inspiration led her to paint de Gelder's portrait, capturing not just his likeness but the essence of his transformative journey.

The Artwork: "Lighting Up Change"

Benzie's painting, titled "Lighting Up Change," is a testament to her dedication and artistic prowess. Spanning about 300 hours of meticulous work, the portrait has been selected for The Percivals, north Queensland's premier art prize. The self-taught artist was thrilled by the recognition, expressing her excitement: "I was stoked … it was a very awesome moment."

The painting itself serves as more than just an artistic expression; it is a call to action. Benzie aims to spotlight the urgent need for marine conservation, especially in Australia. "I want [the painting] to bring attention to the fact that in Australia, we have the Great Barrier Reef — one of the most fantastic ecosystems in the world — but we aren't doing anything to protect it," she emphasized. (ABC News, Australia)

Q: What's the story behind the portrait being photographed underwater?
A: We did it to raise awareness for ocean conservation. We took it to the Great Barrier Reef, something more engaging to grab people's attention about the severity of shark culling and the effects it has on the ocean.


A Message of Hope and Responsibility

Benzie's work is a poignant reminder of the fragile beauty of our oceans and the pressing need for conservation efforts. Through her art, she not only honors the resilience and dedication of individuals like Paul de Gelder but also inspires a broader audience to recognize and act upon the urgent need to protect our marine ecosystems.

greenteaHAWAII Honors National Ocean's Month

At greenteaHAWAII, we are proud to celebrate National Ocean's Month by spotlighting incredible individuals like Benzie who are making a difference. Her story and her art challenge us to reflect on our role in safeguarding the future of the planet's most vital and vulnerable habitats. Through our platform, we hope to raise awareness and inspire action towards marine conservation, ensuring that the beauty and diversity of our oceans are preserved for generations to come.


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