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Trans World Radio renovates its famous underwater mural on Bonaire.

Trans World Radio (TWR) has recently completed the renovation of their famous underwater mural, first painted twenty years ago in 1998.  After many years of Bonaire’s strong sunlight, the mural had become faded and lackluster.  Today, it is back to its former glory, and even more appropriate with sea life that is found here on Bonaire.


The first underwater mural, from 1998.

The original plan, way back in 1997, was to have world-famous mural artist, Robert Wyland, paint one of his “whaling walls” on the premises of Bonaire’s Trans World Radio. Although discussions looked initially positive, Robert Wyland was already booked for so many murals, that it would be years before he could do one on Bonaire.  So, TWR looked for another option.

Trans World Radio's first underwater mural on Bonaire, from 1998.Instead, Paul and Joellen Gallo created an underwater mural as a gift to Trans World Radio and the people of Bonaire.  The scene included sea life from around the world, and, in hindsight, seemed to be weirdly prophetic, as it appeared to foretell the arrival of the invasive Pacific Lionfish, since it was included on the original mural (lower left).

Staff from Trans World Radio also got in on the action, helping mural creators Paul and Joellen. Some even had to overcome their fear of heights in order to paint their assigned area.

Once completed, the mural needed something more, and so, to connect the beauty of the underwater world with Trans World Radio’s purpose for being on Bonaire, an appropriate Bible verse was added.

Are the fishes coming back? Transitioning to a new mural in 2017.

About six weeks ago, suddenly scaffolding appeared, and the wall was whitewashed, hiding the now-faded original mural.  A little boy was walking by with his teacher and asked, “Are the fishes coming back?”

In answer to that question, it is a resounding, “Yes, and, oh, so much more!” Over the past two months, and similar to what happened back in 1998 when the first mural was painted, cars were slowing down to observe what was happening at the wall of the TWR studio. The mural of reef fish accompanied by a Bible verse had been a landmark on Bonaire for so long, and many stopped to watch the wall come back to vivid color and life.

The second underwater mural, 2017.

Rita Carswell and Jeannie Villacorte are the masterminds behind the newest mural. They are professional mural painters and worked tirelessly in Bonaire’s summer sun on TWR’s new mural.

Preliminary work began back home in the United States.

The preparation took Rita and Jeannie more than two weeks of work, even before the actual painting started. First, they took images of Bonaire’s coral reef and oceanic life. They looked at photos and picked some beautiful and colorful fish that can be viewed when diving or snorkeling on Bonaire.

Next, they put the pictures in a computer program, enlarged them, and composed them into a pleasing montage.  The montage was then overlaid with a grid pattern and each grid square was assigned a number, fifty in total.

Each square, with a piece of the image, was then printed on a special film in black and white. All those films were put into an overhead projector and projected on a wall in 4×4′ sections, while the images were traced onto paper, a process which took Rita and Jeannie two days.

Up close and personal with one of the mural painters, 2017 edition of the Trans World Radio underwater mural.Finally, the preliminary work was done, and the papers were put in order, rolled up, and accompanied the ladies to Bonaire. Once here, they unrolled the images and traced over all the black lines with charcoal. Each sheet of paper was taped on the wall, section by section, and traced over it with pencils. Then on the wall, they used permanent markers to make the charcoal impressions indelible, and, finally, painting could commence.

Painting can finally begin.

Paintings and drawings evolve. Slowly the painting develops and comes to life. First, Rita and Jeannie stuck to their preliminary drawings, but as the painting developed, they could add in their own creativity, using shadows and highlights to bring the sea animals to life.

Mural painters Rita and Jeannie say:

“When TWR asked us to do this, we did not think about snorkeling because painting the mural is already a blessing. However, when we went snorkeling and actually saw the fish we are painting, it was extraordinary! Working at the roundabout is also fun. People from Bonaire are very much involved. They wave and honk. So, now, we feel we are also contributing to the whole community!”

Trans World Radio's second underwater mural on Bonaire, under construction in 2017.

The fishes are back!

After weeks of hard work, the fishes are back, along with myriad other examples of sea life found on Bonaire. Current Trans World Radio director, Bernard Oosterhoff, had this to add about the new mural:

“The new mural will mark a new phase for TWR; after four years of hard work we are increasing the power of the radio masts located at the salt pans and this will double the reach of the transmitter. With the upgraded transmitter, we will be able to reach hundred million people living in Colombia, Cuba, Venezuela, and North and Central Brazil. This is such a milestone that we want to celebrate. The new mural is already a beautiful visual marker of this new era.”

— Bernard Oosterhoff

Take time to stop and view the mural.

The mural is now completed and quite beautiful. When next you visit Bonaire, you’ll pass it by the traffic rotary in Hato. Be sure to pull off the side of the road to spend a few moments enjoying this wonderful Bonaire landmark. There can be no argument that truly one can “See the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep.”

Trans World Radio has renovated their underwater mural on Bonaire.

(Source:  Trans World Radio)

Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog. 

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