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Wild Oman: UK artist Violet Astor captures Oman’s wildlife on her vibrant canvas

By Hubert

Violet Astor, a visiting British artist cum activist, will display an exclusive collection of her charcoal artworks depicting wildlife in Oman at the Sayyid Faisal bin Alis Museum in the Ministry of Heritage & Culture between November 5 and 7 to emphasise the need for conservation of wildlife in Oman.

“I look at myself as someone who has always looked to support the environment as much as possible. I used to be a social worker and I’ve also worked in India with tigers, so I’ve always had a love for the environment and that has been the driving force for the rest of my life,” Violet told TheWeek while on a visit last week, adding, “Now as an artist, I’ve had amazing opportunities to be able to travel the world and collaborate with conservation projects in different countries and produce bodies of work to raise awareness about wildlife and how endangered they are.”

Violet produces large and detailed charcoal drawings combined with natural materials found in the environment of her subjects. Her special interest is travelling to the wild corners of the planet to collaborate with wildlife conservation projects.

She captures various moods of endangered species on her canvas to raise awareness and funding to support their survival.

A self-taught artist who discovered her passion for drawing during four years when she was chronically ill with Lyme Disease, Violet says drawing became a part of her healing. And looking back, she now realises that her illness was, in fact, a blessing in disguise that unravelled her hidden talent which blossomed into a full-fledged profession.

Violet’s exhibition in November is the result of painstaking efforts put in by her since early January when she visited Oman for the first time and got an idea of Oman’s wildlife as well as the prospect of doing a collection dedicated to conservation of wildlife in Oman. It is her wish that this exhibition becomes a celebration of Omani wildlife as well as draws attention to the Enivronment Society of Oman’s conservation efforts of Oman’s natural heritage to ensure that it remains intact for future generations to enjoy.

At the official opening by H H Sayyida Dr Mona Fahd al Said on November 4, Violet will donate a special artwork to the Environment Society of Oman, sold by a silent auction. She will also donate framed limited edition fine art prints to the Ministry of Heritage and Culture’s Natural History Museum for them to display inside the museum as well as in the Children’s Museum.

During her initial research about Oman’s wildlife, Violet says she was surprised over and over again about how unique Oman’s wildlife is. “From whales and dolphins to turtles nesting and the ibex and tahr in the mountains, the oryx in the desert and the Arabian leopard, Oman has a wonderful array of wildlife,” she said disclosing that her exhibition would comprise around 14 large artworks depicting the main wildlife of Oman, besides smaller pieces depicting other wildlife like hyenas, owls, etc.

About the ordeal of getting this exhibition ready for Oman, Violet says, “It’s been an amazing process so far. I have received a great reception from the Ministry of Heritage and Culture and the Environment Society of Oman who believe in and support my work. It has made the entire process enjoyable and I look forward to this exhibition.”

The primary objective of the exhibition is to give information to people in Oman and it would include talks about Omani wildlife on the sidelines, she said, adding, “We’re living in a time when awareness about environmental issues is becoming more and more about people’s agenda and that is a good thing. But most people are unaware about how they can actually help, so this exhibition is intended not only to celebrate Omani wildlife but also to help people understand what they can do to support the cause.”

Favourite frame

“My favourite, from the various depictions of Omani wildlife is the leopard. I had no knowledge before I came here that the Arabian leopard is quite tiny, almost half the size of the African or Indian leopard. There are supposedly between 50 and 70 leopards left in the wild which is not a very big number. The thinking is that Oman holds the highest world population of leopards,” says Violet.