Wigan boy's statue trashed just a month after being unveiled
After being submerged in the sea off the coast of Lanzarote as part of the Museo AtlÃ¡ntico, former Wigan youngster Charles Cooper found another new home in the coastal waters off the beautiful Maldives.
But his sculpture - part of a $1m project - lasted just one month.
In the past few days, the Coralarium has been destroyed by police armed with axes, concrete saws and ropes. It happened under the orders of Maldives President Abdulla Yameen who said the artistic installation was a plot by the “Western-backed opposition” to undermine Islam.
Charles spent part of his early life in Carville Close, Hindley Green, but moved out to Lanzarote with his parents Adrian and Zoe.
Two years ago, a sculpture of Charles was placed in the sea off the Playa Blanca holiday resort coast as part of a Â£500,000 project by world-famous environmental sculptor Jason deCaries Taylor.
The Museo Atlántico collection of 300 underwater statues is designed to create an artificial reef encouraging marine life to flourish and is ideal for viewing by snorkelers and divers.
Following the success of the installation and others around the world, 13-year-old Charles became part of the Coralarium in the centre of the largest developed coral lagoon in the Maldives, on the island resort of Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi.
The artwork was to be a semi-submerged tidal gallery space that exhibited a series of 30 sculptural artworks on the skyline, inter-tidal waterline and seabed.
Charles underwent a two-hour process which saw him covered head to toe to create a plaster cast which was later made into a cement figure and fixed to the installation
Grandfather Malcolm Ryding, who lives in Westhoughton with Charles’s grandmother Barbara, said: “We were all so proud that Charles would have been part of the Maldives history for years to come.
But that’s sadly not to be.
“Demolition of the installation seems to be part of the national elections and aimed at ‘courting the religious vote’.”
It was in 2006 that Jason deCaries Taylor founded and created the world’s first underwater sculpture park in the West Indies which is now listed as one of the Top 25 Wonders of the World by National Geographic.
Three years later he co-founded the Museo Subacuático de Arte — a monumental museum with a collection of over 500 of his sculptural works, submerged off the coast of Cancun, Mexico.
And in London, his River Thames installation — The Rising Tide — attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors.
A statement from Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi said: "While we are very surprised by the removal of eco-art pieces by the authorities we respect the people, traditions and customs of the Maldives. The removal process was peaceful and friendly without interruption to our world famous service.
"The Coralarium structure and underwater trees remains intact, ensuring the coral restoration program remains alive and well. We have initiated immediate re-imagination plans with the artist, creating a new underwater gallery that will be in harmony with the locals and environment."