Promoting conservation through art | WWF

Promoting conservation through art

Posted on
27 December 2012

"Art has been used for hundreds of years to illustrate spirituality, to raise awareness about environmental issues and evoke emotions. Art can engage people in a very deep and personal way, and stir them into action. The natural environment can have similar effects on our emotions – moving us when we see a beautiful sunset or a tree with sunlight on its new leaves," says Judy Oglethorpe, Chief of Party, Hariyo Ban Program. 

Recognizing this, the Hariyo Ban Program supported the Second Kathmandu International Art Festival organized by the Siddhartha Art Foundation. This festival happens every three years and is one of the biggest art events of South Asia that uses art as a tool for social change. This year the theme of the festival was 'EARTH, BODY and MIND' that explored human links with the environment and the issue of climate change. A total of 95 artists from 31 countries together with 25 Nepali artists exhibited their art at various venues around the Kathmandu Valley for a month.

The Hariyo Ban Program sponsored two art works: the Naga – or water serpent – by Leang Seckon, and an interactive installation on renewable energy called Moon Ride by Assocreation.

The Naga by Leang Seckon

Save forests. Protect water. Conserve species.

The Naga by Leang Seckon was originally installed along the Siem Riep River, Cambodia with local communities, using waste plastic that was collected, washed, cut and stapled to make the Naga’s scales.
The Naga was exhibited in the National Zoo, Jawalakhel, Kathmandu from 25th November to 21st December. Nagas (serpents or snakes) are deeply rooted in Nepalese tradition and culture. In both Hinduism and Buddhism, nagas are semi-divine beings, half human and half serpentine, possessing powers of transformation. Hindus celebrate the festival Naga Panchami as the birth of Naga in the belief that this will ensure rain for crops. Religious studies even claim that Kathmandu was once called Naga Daha, inhabited by many nagas. In Buddhism nagas are aquatic deities protecting water.

Through the symbolism of the spiritual Naga this installation aimed to communicate the importance of conserving fresh water sources for people, their agriculture, and natural freshwater systems. These natural systems support nagas and also other species – for example the rare crocodile or gharial, the Gangetic dolphin in Nepal, and fish populations on which many rural communities depend. Yet these water resources are threatened by deforestation, infrastructure development and pollution. And climate change is believed to be influencing precipitation patterns, resulting in erratic rainfall. The Naga reminds us to take good care of our water sources, and think about the consequences of our actions on water, food security and wild species.

Moon Ride by Assocreation

Burn calories. Have fun. Produce electricity.

Assocreation is a group of fine artists founded in Vienna, Austria in 1997. They work primarily with interactive installations and public happenings.

The interactive installation Moon Ride demonstrates the importance of climate smart practices to help our environment. This installation was launched on a dark, cold evening on 29th November in Naag Bahal, Kathmandu. Moon Ride literally takes you on a ride: you pedal a stationary bicycle, and the kinetic energy you create is converted into electrical energy. When enough electrical energy is generated it spectacularly lights up a balloon suspended high in the air.

Roland Graf, one of the artists from Assocreation, worked with Nepali engineering students and community members in Naag Bahal to install this artwork. The community provided the venue and volunteered in installing the balloon and coordinating people.

Moon Ride is a fun interactive installation teaching us about the need to find alternative solutions for our energy requirements, so we can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and lower carbon emissions that are contributing to climate change. We can also reduce carbon emissions by stopping deforestation, and restoring degraded forests. Firewood collection is one of the major causes of deforestation, so finding alternative energy sources like biogas or solar power slows carbon emissions, and forest restoration helps to lock up carbon from the atmosphere, as well as conserving water sources.

By Pallavi Dhakal
Communications Officer
Hariyo Ban Program, WWF Nepal

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