Seychelles’ win first place in China competition

Seychelles’ coco de mer covered in snow? The tropical animals and plants found in Seychelles are not likely to be exposed to the extreme cold anytime soon, but a snow sculpture competition in China put the island nation’s warm-weather fauna and flora into snowman territory.

Visitors to the Heilongjiang Provincial College Snow Sculpture Competition had the chance to see a Seychellois-themed snow sculpture built by a three-member team of students from Harbin Engineering University. The team included Seychellois Leroy Larue, who is currently doing his master’s degree in engineering, and students from Zambia and Liberia.

The sculpture — a green turtle, white-tailed tropical bird and sailfish, resting on a coco de mer — was carved out of a 27-square-metre block of snow over three days.

Helping the three foreign students were a Chinese art professor and student, who assisted in acquiring the right equipment and clothes for the competition. Each day, the team worked under cold conditions for more than eight hours.

Larue explained that to enter and be part of his university’s team, he had to make a drawing of a potential piece. His design was chosen among that of four students. The elimination process started with 14 participants and Larue managed to make it into the team.

Taking place at Sun Island in Harbin city, China, the competition lasted for four days, from December 10 through to December 13 last year, and saw the participation of 35 teams from 29 universities of Heilongjiang Province.

Harbin Engineering University’s sculpture — titled ‘Seychelles’ — won first place in the international student category, much to Larue’s surprise. The team also walked away with prizes for ‘Best Organisation’ and for ‘Best Instructor’.

“We had two weeks for preparation and among the students in my team I was the only one with snow sculpting experience,” said Larue, describing the experience as amazing and unforgettable.

“Apart from a hard time of preparation, I was happy with the results, and even happier that I could get the chance to promote my school and especially Seychelles along the way,” said Larue, 26.

Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, is home to the renowned coco de mer, the world’s biggest nut. 

This is not the first time that Larue has taken part in a sculpting competition. In 2015, together with students from Turkmenistan, Sri Lanka and Comoros, Larue took part in the four-metre square category.

With zero experience and lack of proper equipment, the team managed to sculpt the snow block to showcase the word ‘Hope’.

“It was really hard as it was very cold, and we didn’t have proper tools, not even the right amount. We sculpted using only four big chisels and a spade,” said Larue.

Though a tough experience with no prior preparation, the group completed the sculpture in three days and managed to come in first place.