Picturing a clean beach

This weekend a large group of volunteers cleaned a 1.5 km stretch of the beach. Their inspiration? Virginie Vlaminck, a Belgian photographer who started the campaign, ‘Namma Beach, Namma Chennai — Keep Waste Out of Reach’, in Injambakkam. We catch up with her during the clean-up to find out what fuels this movement.

When did this campaign begin?

I started cleaning the beach shortly after my arrival in the city in August 2011. Changing it in the form of a campaign happened in December 2012.

How many people did you begin with? Have the numbers grown?

Initially, when I came to live in Injambakkam, I was the only one cleaning the street and the beach. I did it while I walked my dogs. Soon the friends I made began helping me. During my Christmas break in 2012, I decided to take my mission more seriously. I also realised that I would need more people to help me make it work. I decided to get my neighbours involved. That is how I got to know that there was an association of the landlords in the area, and asked them to get involved. I made banners and placed garbage bins at the entrance of the beach. I also contacted the local Kung-Fu karate club. We have had more than 150 people joining us over the last two clean-ups.

What got you started? And what keeps you going?

My love for Nature inspired me to start the clean-up. Complaining about it, which is what a lot of foreigners do, was not going to change anything. And although it sometimes seems endless, because people who visit the beach keep littering and the sea spits out garbage daily, I don’t give up.

Over the last few weeks Sanah Thakur, a college student, has joined me for a summer internship. She motivated me to go public with my cleaning campaign. My husband Filiep de Zutter is my biggest supporter. Without his encouragement I would not be doing this. Then there’s my neighbour ‘CKR’ and his wife, who are crucial to this campaign. They have literally opened their doors to us, hosting breakfast for the volunteers after every clean-up.  

You’ve drawn a young and enthusiastic crowd this time. How do you motivate people to participate?

As a photographer I use my pictures to get them to join me! Everybody I photograph gets a print to keep for themselves.

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Printable version | Nov 25, 2021 5:18:56 PM |

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