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The Art of the Gorongosa National Park Exhibit

Zoo Boise’s brand new 2.5-acre Gorongosa National Park Exhibit features 2 amazing art projects. In this article, we shed a little bit of light on each amazing project and why they are important to Zoo Boise’s mission.

Zoo Boise Partners with Boise State University to Help Bring Gorongosa National Park Exhibits to Life

Photo Credit: Boise State University

Brightly colored murals catch your eye the moment you step inside the E.O. Wilson Building and other new animal enclosures at Zoo Boise’s Gorongosa National Park Exhibit.

The murals are the result of a partnership between Zoo Boise and Boise State University, located just across the river from the zoo.

Boise State professor Michael Baltzell used photos from Mozambique and Gorongosa to bring the landscapes to life. He worked with theater arts major Kaitie Branton to create the interior murals for the dogs, hyenas and gibbons, which were all painted by hand.

“You want to capture the sense of the environment that the animals live in, but you also don’t want to overpower the animals,” Baltzell said. He’s an associate professor and tech director for the Theater Arts Department at Boise State.



Artist Statement by Melissa “Sasi” Chambers

Artwork: Untitled (2019) by Melissa “Sasi” Chambers

This Public Art Installation is inspired by both the animals, and the people of Mozambique who live in Gorongosa. The animals chosen represent key animals native to the park which are not included in the Boise exhibit. They are the African Elephant, the Blue Wildebeest, the Greater Kudu, and the Leopard. I also included the birds: Lilac-breasted Roller, Saddle-billed Stork, Green-headed Oriole, and African Hoopoe.

I chose to represent the people who live in Gorongosa by painting the distinctive patterns informed by the textiles called Capulana which are worn as wraps, head scarves, or baby slings by the people of Mozambique. I used the patterns as background for the animals, and also alone for visitors to use as their own backdrops to their photo memories.

My choice to use bright, saturated colors, big splashy patterns, and geometric renderings of the animals’ faces was meant to appeal to the children, of all ages, and to emphasize how brightly patterned and colorful are the natural world and the animals and people who live in it.

Plus the baboons seem to be pleased with their view of the artwork from their habitat. Bonus!