Long before Nemo there was a creature named Little Obelia

Romance was Born’s Obelia swimsuit.Credit:Romance is born

“May Gibbs goes from the bush to the sea, always with her message of community and conservation,” said Yvonne Brennan, a former marine scientist with Nutcote Trust.

Exhibition curator Selena Griffith said she was inspired by the incredible detail in Gibbs’ illustrations, which are so precise that most plants and animals can be scientifically identified.

“I grew up loving May Gibbs, I even wanted to be a marine scientist so I could explore the amazing underwater world of fish,” Ms. Griffith said.

“Some of the species included in Little Obelia – like fish, seashells, algae, sea dragons, seahorses, pipefish, anemones, sea cucumbers and nudibranchs – would have been both difficult to see or access, being under the sea and before there was access to diving equipment in 1921.

“I searched through her materials held by the State Library of NSW and came to the conclusion that May was both a very observant and an excellent researcher who could have accessed the Australian Museum Library at the time of writing. “

Dr Anna Scott of Southern Cross University, who specializes in clownfish and sea anemones which she calls “the homes of Nemos and Nemo”, said her parents and grandparents had read Little Obelia as a child, which inspired her to become a marine biologist.

NSW Governor Margaret Beazley opens the Little Obelia exhibit.

NSW Governor Margaret Beazley opens the Little Obelia exhibit.Credit:Janie Barrett

” When I look Little Obelia it’s like diving into the reef, in some parts the scientific precision of these drawings is incredible, ”said Dr Scott, whose observations are part of the exhibit.

It also includes a treasure hunt, an underwater reflection room with Obelia’s throne and story reading spots where you can use a QR code to access the chapters of the book read by the various marine biology experts. .


coconut, the 1925 heritage listed yellow stucco-walled house built for Gibbs as a home and art studio, also featured in the 2018 film, Ladies in black. The Little Obelia exhibition will be there until June.

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