Uncontaminated Nature

Les sentinelles du volcan

The story of the twelve stone sentinels on the slopes of the Piton de la Fournaise, a volcano on Réunion Island, is a profound fusion of art and nature, crafted by the visual artist Enzo Mayo. Born in Tananarive in 1945, Mayo has a reputation for integrating natural elements into his works, often exploring the relationship between the Earth’s organic processes and human artistic expression.

Les sentinelles du volcan

In 1998, Mayo installed the 12 sentinels—each 6 meters high and weighing 20 tons, composed of an amalgam of lava, basalt, and dry shotcrete—on an old geothermal platform. At the heart of this arrangement, he placed a synthetic crystal, symbolizing perhaps a core of energy or life amidst the imposing stone figures. The location, known as the “great burn” at the foot of Piton de la Fournaise, was deliberately chosen by Mayo for its elemental intensity and dynamic natural environment.

Les sentinelles du volcan

Mayo’s vision for these sculptures was unique: he intended for them to be completed not solely by his own hand but by the natural forces of the volcano itself. This artistic process came to fruition in April 2007, when an eruption from Piton de la Fournaise covered the sculptures in volcanic flow, marking the final act of creation as Mayo had envisioned—nature itself sculpting the artworks for the last time with the fire of the earth.


This act encapsulates a powerful commentary on impermanence and the creative and destructive forces of nature. The sentinels, now marked by the volcanic activity, stand as a testament to the intertwined fates of human endeavors and natural phenomena. They serve not only as art but as a reminder of the volcanic life force of Réunion Island and the ever-present possibility of transformation.

Les sentinelles du volcan

For those interested in viewing similar works, Mayo also created “Les Cœurs de Pierre” in 1999 for the city of Le Port on Réunion Island. This work, featuring enormous blocks of carved basalt, is displayed in the wooded park of the city, continuing his theme of integrating natural materials and settings into his art.

For visitors to Réunion Island or those exploring the intersections of art, nature, and geology, the story of the twelve sentinels and Enzo Mayo’s other works offer a compelling journey into the heart of creative expression shaped by the Earth’s most primal forces. For more information on Enzo Mayo’s works and other unique sites on Réunion Island, travel resources such as Secret World can provide detailed guides and insights. Additionally, downloading the app from Secret World can enhance your exploration with rich narratives and practical advice, deepening the appreciation of the island’s unique cultural and natural landscape.

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