Nova Scotia Journal

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Artists in Ethiopia Use “Plant Graffiti” to protect the environment

Artists in Ethiopia

Key Takeaways:

  • Researchers or artists are working to restore biodiversity in Kofele, Ethiopia by building a 50-meter tree nursery shaped like a lion visible from space.
  • The lion, Ethiopia’s national animal, represents cultural pride and the ecosystem’s ability to support large predators.

Jemmal Wako saw snow for the first time in his hometown of Kofele two years ago while visiting family. Wako, a diaspora Ethiopian now living in Vancouver, couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw how the tropical environment of his youth had changed dramatically, proving that climate change had left its mark on the region.

Wako told Hyperallergic, “I never expected to see snow in our country.” “We talk about the environment also the future all the time in Canada, but those conversations don’t happen the same way there.” As a result, many Ethiopians are unaware of what climate change entails, and something must be done.”

Wako is one of many researchers also artists collaborating with the ROBA to restore biodiversity in Kofele through a 50-meter lion-shaped tree nursery.

This living artwork, a part of the more giant “Trees for Life” project, will be visible from space, making it the first Earth observation artwork made entirely of plant life.

Lion Ethiopia's national animal
Lion Ethiopia’s national animal; Image from Hyperallergic

The project is a collaboration between ROBA, EAS, the British Council, KPU, and Dundee city planners to preserve Oromo culture through “plant graffiti,” which will serve as the foundation for Ethiopia’s first arts curriculum.

The East African country has lost 90 percent of its forests in the last century, resulting in species extinction and widespread poverty.

The practice of tree-planting was once central to the democratic system of Oromo self-governance known as Gadaa. Which predated today’s federal republic and provided food, fire, and shelter to native Oromo people.

Hussein Watta, founder and director of ROBA, told Hyperallergic via WhatsApp that Gadaa has always been about protecting the land or celebrating Oromo self-determination.

“When I speak with elders, they describe us as climate change victims who have lost our culture.” Yet, when you ask them about trees and how Oromos cared for them, they see culture and art as critical players.

When a practice is ingrained in a people’s culture whether in art and song or technology and photography they perform better. “Right now, my goal is to mobilize people around this.” Wako emphasizes that the creative process can change people’s perceptions of the worth of each tree.

Source: hyperallergic News

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