In memory of Mitsuaki Tanabe

In memory of Mitsuaki Tanabe

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Mitsuaki Tanabe, renowned Japanese artist and conservationist who created two banana sculptures for Bioversity International in honour of agricultural biodiversity.

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of the renowned Japanese artist, sculptor and conservationist, Mitsuaki Tanabe, aged 76. Mr. Tanabe was creator of the ‘Wild Banana In Situ Conservation’ sculpture, which he generously donated to Bioversity International after learning of the threat that faces this vital crop. In 2009, he braved leeches, centipedes and insects to explore the birthplaces of wild banana in the jungles of the Philippines and Sri Lanka, to further develop the plan for his sculpture. 

The sculpture, which is made of steel and weighs 330 kg, was unveiled at Bioversity International in February 2012. A ceremony attended by Hideya Yamada, Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Agencies in Rome; the United States Ambassador of the UN, and ambassadors from Brazil, Zimbabwe, Iraq and Zambia, as well as representatives from the other Rome-based agencies. 

Tanabe knew that his wild banana sculpture, and the wild rice sculptures he created for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, the Global Crop Diversity Trust and others, were each an appeal for the preservation of agricultural biodiversity and their places of origin.

In 2013, he created a sister sculpture ‘A Seed of Wild Banana’, which he graciously donated to Bioversity International’s office in Montpellier, in honour of our research on the conservation and use of banana (Musa) genetic resources. The inauguration took place that summer, attended by the Mayor of Montpellier – Hélène Mandroux, Bioversity International’s Director General – M. Ann Tutwiler, as well as representatives from various CGIAR centres and research institutes based in Agropolis. 

Mr. Tanabe also donated his original sketches for the creation of the ‘Wild Banana In Situ Conservation’ sculpture, which are permanently exhibited at Bioversity International Headquarters.   

During the unveiling of the banana sculpture, Mr. Tanabe expressed his commitment to elevating awareness and research around this crop, “I sincerely hope that through this sculpture and the 14 sketches, we are reminded of the importance of this precious fruit and continue our efforts in passing it down to the next generations”.