Australian In-Situ Wild Rice Conservation Project
A Japanese sculptor carved an ode to biodiversity into a floodplain.
Wander into a certain part of the Australian bush, and you’ll encounter enormous carvings blasted into the granite boulders and the floodplain. These carvings, in the Mount Bundey area of the Northern Territory, depict lizards, insects, and gigantic stalks of wild rice.
They’re the work of Mitsuaki Tanabe, a Japanese sculptor who started the work in 2010 with the cooperation of the Australian government. Throughout his life, Tanabe dedicated his art to the importance of wild rice and other organisms in the preservation of biodiversity, and his works dot the globe, often depicting seeds. This particular work is meant to raise awareness of the Northern Territory’s wild rice varieties, which include Oryza officinalis, Oryza rufipogon, Oryza meridionalis, and Oryza australiensis.
For 10 years, Tanabe traveled to Australia during the dry season to work on the project. Tragically, Tanabe passed away before he could finish the work, but his son, Taka Tanabe, along with some sculptor friends, completed the pieces in 2016.
Know Before You Go
The carvings are located to the north of the Arnhem Highway. The wetlands are flooded for several months of the year, so check the ground condition before planning a visit.
Visitors wanting to learn more about the wetlands can visit the nearby "Window on the Wetlands" visitor center, which puts the sculptures in the greater context of the wetlands ecosystem.
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