Shamier Magmoet is a free diver from Heideveld on the Cape Flats. He is also a passionate environmentalist working hard to keep the ocean clean. The former school transport driver talks to us about his ocean conservation work.
Tell us how this all started?
Growing up in Heideveld I never saw many people of colour diving or doing conservation work. My father used to tell me how he and my grandfather would walk down to the beach from District Six. They would catch crayfish for lunch. He also worked for the first SA Agulhas (a supply and research ship).I knew back then I wanted to do something with the ocean. Unfortunately, I had to start working after matric. Any dreams I had about doing ocean work seemed dashed. Four years ago at 33 I started seeing all these diving posts on social media. I randomly put up a post about wanting to do a freediving course. Freediving is diving without any breathing equipment. This guy Junaid replied to me, and invited me to go dive with him. We started diving together every weekend after that. It was the first time I went diving,and really saw the beauty of the ocean.
I was so happy, but also angry. I asked myself why did no one tell me I could do this? Why did this take so long for me to do? I thought of all the older people who never had this experience? It was after the first dive that I decided I want to show the youth that the ocean is for everybody. Despite stereotypes of what we see in the media. Despite no representation of Black and Coloured people doing this. This fuelled my passion.
You mention representation, explain your thoughts?
I’m a Coloured, Muslim guy with this big beard. I am not how your typical diver and environmentalist looks. People started noticing me. A business Cape Town FreeDiving reached out and offered me free diving lessons. I want kids to see here is someone who looks like you. Who goes through the same struggles. I want to show the youth that they can dive and do conservation work. I want to show that this and more is possible. We also need to conserve our planet.
Tell us more about the beach clean ups?
I had a seven-day work week. I resigned from that to do school transport work. As soon as I would drop the kids I would go to the ocean. It became a daily thing for me. I joined a social group of divers called Trail Free Divers.This group had underwater beach clean ups running already. They would freedive and pick up dirt from the ocean floor. So I started bringing my nieces along to these clean ups. They started bringing their friends along too. I got them masks and snorkels. One of the guys told me he noticed my work with the kids. He and his wife felt so inspired by my work. They wanted to work with me to start an ocean conservation project. This is how Sea the bigger Picture began. I run a programme called Defenders of the Blue. We teach kids to become citizen scientists and we teach them snorkelling and so on. This we do along with the beach clean ups.
Tell us about the film Rise from the Cape Flats?
Ok let me first say that the poster always gets lots of compliments. My friend Benjamin Wiid, another freediver designed it for me. He wanted to incorporate where I come from and what I am doing. So Rise from the Cape Flats came about when I entered a competition to tell the story about Sea the Bigger Picture. The New Pitch competition takes pitches from people about conservation. I was one of the finalists last year. They flew me up to Durban. It was my first trip out of the province, and first time on a plane. These are some of the amazing opportunities that have happened so far. I pitched a film about Sea the Bigger Picture, but was convinced to weave my background and life into it as well. This is all coming about because I followed my dream, and didn’t wait till it was too late. I have been blessed so much.
Where can we watch Rise from the Cape Flats?
The film was available on YouTube. It will also be screened on National Geographic. We just need to confirm the dates. But for now it can be viewed on the 25th of October 2020 on the People’s Weather Channel on DSTV. I am working on a website and will be free to view there soon.
How can people help See the Bigger Picture?
Lockdown has really hampered our fundraising, so we really appreciate any donations and funding. We operate solely on donations, as this isn’t about making profits. The programmes we run for the youth are free to them. We would like to keep it this way. Folks can hit the donate button Sea the Bigger Picture website. Alternatively I can be emailed on email@example.com
We hope this inspires people to take initiative, and start conserving their environment.