Four giant sculptures made of recycled wood hidden on Sentosa’s Palawan Beach

Artist Thomas Dambo said his sculptures demonstrate the value of trash as a creative material.  ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
The four statues join Mr Dambo’s oeuvre of 97 other sculptures hidden in forests around the world.  ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - With large front teeth and eyes the size of rugby balls, four gargantuan statues of trolls from Danish folklore are now basking on the sunny shores of Sentosa.

Created by Copenhagen-based sustainability artist and recycling activist Thomas Dambo, the creatures, known as the Explorers of Sentosa, are made out of wooden pallets, crates and floorboards discarded in Singapore.

Scattered in various corners of Palawan Beach, some of them even requiring short hikes into forested areas to reach, these sculptures, which are free to access, will be in Sentosa until 2024.

Clues in an interactive online treasure map will help Sentosa visitors in their hunt for the giant trolls.

Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) chief executive Thien Kwee Eng said she hopes that the public will experience a sense of mystery as they search for the sculptures in lesser-known areas of Palawan Beach.

“We are excited to invite our international and local visitors to discover the giants and the sustainability-themed stories behind them,” she said.

The four statues, which were unveiled on Tuesday, join Mr Dambo’s oeuvre of 97 other sculptures made out of recycled materials hidden in forests around the world.

The artist said his sculptures demonstrate the value of trash as a creative material. “A lot of people are afraid of trash and don’t want to touch it, and we think that if we drop something on the floor, then maybe it’s not worth picking it up again or it’s not as good as something that is new,” he said.

“But trash can become something beautiful, that can make people smile and make others happy as a beautiful material that we can use for a lot of good things.” 

Additionally, Mr Dambo hopes that the totemic statues will teach visitors about nature through Danish folklore. 

The artist has given each troll its own personality and a unique story about its experiences and interaction with pollution, specifically its encounters with marine litter.

He said: “In Denmark, we have a big culture on natural stories about trolls… What my figures represent is the voice of nature, and while nature can’t speak, I think nature has a lot to say about the behaviour of humans, who have recently come into the world.”

He added: “Ocean trash is very real to islands like Sentosa, with diverse yet vulnerable biodiversity, and I hope that the installations in this beautiful location can serve as a strong visual reminder of the need for responsible use of materials and their impact on the environment.”

As the youngest of the giants, Curious Sue has adventure in her heart and joyfully searches for hidden treasures in the sand. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Mr Dambo has given each troll its own personality and a unique story, like Reef the Chief who takes plastic waste and recycles it into beautiful treasures. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

The sculptures are decorated with plastic garlands or “magic” orbs to highlight alternative uses of waste such as plastic bottles, canisters and water bottles.

Ms Angelina Lourdes, owner of creative studio Studio29, who designed the plastic ornaments, said: “Although some may think that upcycling plastic waste into whimsical objects will not reduce the amount of plastic waste in the end, beginning to view plastic as a creative material can incentivise people to begin sorting and cleaning waste for use in their projects.”

According to data released by the National Environment Agency in April, only 13 per cent of domestic waste was recycled in 2022, with contamination in recycling bins being the key reason that the rate remains low. 

Ms Lourdes added: “Even if the joy from these objects wears off, at least they can be easily recycled because they’ve already been sorted and cleaned.”

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