Tsunami : Arts and Healing

Louise Bourgeois wrote the caption for Hold Me Close:

This tragedy reminds us how fragile our lives are and how little we can do expect to hold onto each other. These hands say I will not let you go, but do not abandon me. Keep your grip. Hold me close forever and ever.

Bourgeois’s Hold Me Close (2005) comprises of large architectural platform made of planks of redwood (Xylia xylocarpa Taub) that merges with surrounding woods and bushes. The viewer walks bare feet on the raised area flanked by trees (Writhtia rekigiasa Banth) toward a rest area and a dark pond with constant ripples of water. In the shadowy pool appears a tiny hand on a rock made of glided bronze. A child’s hand is partially submerged in moving water. The question that confronts the viewer is: where is the rest of the child’s body?

Near the pond and rest area is a dome-shape enclosure made of redwood panels. The viewer enters inside the cool and eerie enclosed space to find a pair of gilded bronze embracing hands that are placed on octagonal pedestal. The hands gently clasp each other with fingers touching to form arching pyramidal shapes that evoke feeling of protection. The pair of hands can be interpreted as the shape of the stupa, the lotus as well as gesture of respect (wai) in Thai custom. The gilded hands point upward toward the open top that allows sunshine and raindrops to fall onto the sculptures. As the viewer moves on the platform towards the exit the direction point straight at Phi Phi Island where countless lives were lost and bodies gone missing on 26 December 2004.

Source: Tsunami Sculpture Memorial Project, Ministry of Culture, 2007
Title : Hold Me Close
Artist : Louise Bourgeois
Size : 16 x 23 x 12 inches
40.6 x 58.4 x 30.4 cm.
(For Praying Hands Installed inside Wooden Dome)
5 x 13 x 10 inches
12.7 x 33 x 25.4 cm.
(For Child’s Hand in Pool of Water)
Technique : Bronze
Material : Bronze, Gold Patina, Wood
(For Praying Hands Installed inside Wooden Dome)
Bronze with Black Patina and Gold Leaf
(For Child’s Hand in Pool of Water)
Noparathara National Park, Krabi

Tsunami Memorial - Police Patrol Boat T813

T813 was a coastal patrol boat in active service with the Royal Thai Police, safeguarding the coast and providing security for VIP guests staying at Khao Lak.

On the morning of 26 December 2004, the 60-tonne boat was anchored at about 1 nautical mile off the coast of Khao Lak, where Her Royal Highness Ubonrat Rajakanya was staying with her family. When the tsunami struck, the boat was swept inland for almost 2 kilometers by the immense tidal force, stopped only by the foot of the Khao Lak Hill. Below is the recollection of Pol. Capt. Niran Chuay-jitr, commanding officer of the boat, who survived the incident together with 9 of his crew.

'Surviving the tidal wave'
T813 was on duty at the Khao Lak coast on that fateful morning, originally anchoring at a stationary point while a new crew was changed for the day shift at around 7.00am. Around 9.30am, they received radio communications from Phuket marine police that there were giant waves coming in their direction. Pol.Capt. Niran also noticed the sea level decreasing rapidly while he pulled up the anchor to prepare the ship to face the tide.

Pol.Capt. Niran ordered his crew to turn the ship around and accelerate its speed up to 20 knot to face the incoming waves, estimated to be around 3-5 meter high. He planned to dive under the first wave out towards the sea. If they could survive the first wall of waves, he thought, they had a good chance of riding the following ones out to the open ocean.

But the waves came in at lightening speed. Only 3 seconds later the first waves struck as the boat accelerated, submerging it entirely. Pol.Capt. Niran and 8 men were swept overboard. Luckily they wore life vests, so they could stay afloat as waves raged around them. Pol.Capt. Niran, however, lost his vests and nearly drown under the water onslaught. Luckily he found a lifeboat and clung to it while the waves carried him far inland, nearly reaching the main road linking Phuket and Pang-Nga.

The water then receded, leaving Pol.Capt. Niran stranded not far away from where T813 also rested. A car rescued him and delivered him to a Phuket hospital. Eventually he was transferred to Bangkok for further medical care, having sustained heavy injury and lost a lot of blood.

Later, when reconstruction efforts were fully underway, the Royal Thai Police originally wanted to return T813 to active duty. However, it was decided that the boat should be left there to remind people of the astonishing power of the 2004 Tsunami which destroyed so many lives and whole communities with them

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