22, the creative anthology commissioned by LAAF as a response to COP26 is to be exhibited at Open Eye’s Digital Window Gallery until 13 February.
22 is a creative anthology by Arab artists from 22 countries across the Middle East and North Africa. Commissioned by Liverpool Arab Arts Festival as a rapid response to COP26, the artistic works include music, visual art, poetry, illustration and photography and highlight the disproportionate impact the climate crisis is having on the countries and communities living within the MENA region.
From water shortages to population displacement, changes in climate and failing crops, the impact of the climate crisis is worsened by the continuing hangovers of conflict and colonialism, meaning the issues already existing in the MENA region are exacerbated.
As global leaders gathered in Glasgow for COP26, each of the 22 artists provided an insight into how the climate crisis is affecting their community. As a creative anthology it creates a time capsule at a crucial moment in history.
Arab voices are not strongly heard within the climate crisis conversation in the West, despite the disproportionate and severe effects those on the ground are facing. Capturing the hopes and fears of a generation of Arab artists, 22 reflects the range of perceptions and preoccupations of those living in or with heritage of these specific Arab areas.
22 exhibits at Open Eye as the Look Climate Lab 2022 launches, ahead of the Look Photo Biennial 2022, the Climate Lab is a series of research projects on climate change. Read more here
The show will be played on the digital screen 11am-4pm Wed-Sun, between Wed 19 Jan – Sun 13 Feb
Liverpool Arab Arts Festival in collaboration with Creative Destruction has produced a series of online conversations titled ARTISTS / IDEAS / NOW. This series is part of LAAF’s four-month festival focused on the climate crisis, and invites leading creatives, activists and thinkers to explore the complexities surrounding the climate emergency.
This conversation looks at the connection between patriarchy and the climate crisis. How is the climate crisis impacting women and people of marginalised genders? Are there feminist solutions to the crisis – perhaps rooted in cultural traditions and practices which have been upended by consumerist habits? How can artists help illuminate the parallels between society’s treatment of women and nature?
The panel will be made up of artists who have contributed to the 22 project
Ala Buisir is a documentary photographer born in Ireland with Libyan roots. A graduate with a BA in Photography from TU Dublin. Then an MA in Journalism from DCU and currently doing a PhD by practice in UL. Her work documents the social and political tension around us today. The aim is to raise awareness by presenting events through different perspectives in hopes that it may also bring about change.Website: www.alabuisir.com
Juliana Yazbeck is an award-winning actor, writer & musical artist. As an actor, she is best known for her roles as Niqabi Ninja in Sara Sharaawi’s play Niqabi Ninja, Roza Salih in Glasgow Girls (National Theatre of Scotland) and Yara in the Emmy-winning series Shankaboot (BBC World Service).Juliana’s debut record SUNGOD was awarded PRS Foundation’s Women Make Music Award. Juliana recently played a sold-out show at London’s Electric Ballroom (2020). In 2019, Juliana played London’s ULU alongside Sudanese icon AlSarah, headlined the National Theatre River Stage and Liverpool Arab Arts Festival, and was nominated for the Arab British Centre’s Award for Culture.Juliana also writes regularly. Her words feature in gal-dem magazine and on Medium.com.Twitter: @julianayaz
Maha Alasaker is a visual artist based in Kuwait. She is a 2014 graduate from the International Center of Photography.Through her artwork, Maha tries to gain a deeper understanding of herself while attempting to engage issues of culture and identity. Her curiosity centers around how a woman’s upbringing affects identity and self-worth.Maha’s projects have been displayed in numerous exhibitions in New York City and London, as well as the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. Magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Marie Claire and Rolling Stone have featured her work.In 2019, Maha published her first photo book, “Women of Kuwait”, which was then acquired by the Getty Research Institute and The Thomas J. Watson Library at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
This film-poem is an invitation to reflect on the situation in Yemen, which is currently known as the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world”. Not much work is being done in Yemen regarding climate change, and especially the threat posed by the floating oil storage vessel, FSO Safer, in the Red Sea. The tanker is likely to explode or sink according to experts, which will cause an environmental disaster that is difficult to contain. This will affect the lives of many, not only in Yemen but also in other countries. However, it seems that the world is still in denial since the danger is invisible to many, and there is no interest in looking beyond the self or diving to explore the unseen.
Saba Hamzah(@Saba_Hamzah) is a Yemeni poet-scholar, writer, and educator. She received her master’s degree in Gender Studies from Utrecht University. Saba’s main devices are line and light and the moments in between. Her work questions power structures of societies at large using art and literary interventions as tools for social mediation and transformation. Her scholarship activates silences in living archives of women in the conditions of diaspora and exile.
ISOTYPE is a series of images inspired by Otto Neurath’s theory on isotypes – which he considers to be a universal and non-verbal language – which aims to transform information into visual forms. In this sense, what could be more universal than the emoji in our digital age? I use this iconography (Emoji) common to all people and cultures to talk about a problem that concerns us all, and which requires action on a global scale.
“Words divide, images unite” — Otto Neurath
Walid Bouchouchi is a graphic designer and Fine Arts graduate from Algiers. He is interested in the link between writing and oral expression in the different languages and cultures, with which he is frequently confronted between Algiers, Marseille and Paris. He founded the AKAKIR studio in 2016, participated in numerous international exhibitions and produced the branding for several cultural festivals.
“Origin Story” is a spoken word poem which reframes our current moment in history as part of the creation tale of the next generation of heroes: young climate justice activists who will lead the monumental task of transitioning our world from the industrial growth society into a life-sustaining living system.
Dana Dajani is a Palestinian-American actress, poet, and humanitarian. Known for her theatrical style of spoken word poetry centered on social justice, Dana has been invited to perform around the world, including at the Sydney Opera House and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.
Previously based in the UAE (2011-2018), Dana was honored for her contributions to the creative community, as well as her bilingual performances on screen and on stage, with Emirates Woman “Artist of the Year” award, the “Young Arab Award for Entertainment”, and others. She currently lives between Amman, Jordan, and London, UK with her husband and collaborator, Rami Kanso.
The most obvious effects of climate change on the land ecosystem in my country, Mauritania, is desertification and its consequences. We are experiencing significant droughts with immediate effects of the food security of people, particularly those living in villages, like Aichetou – the woman I painted while breastfeeding her newborn baby. Action is needed, soon.
Saleh Lo was born in 1984 in Mauritania. Since childhood he has naturally been predisposed for figurative art, which he experiments in various ways. As a self-taught artist, he has refined hyper realistic techniques through the study of the works of other artists and following tutorials on YouTube. His work tackles societal issues such as street children, mixed-race unions and slavery. He has exhibited and has taken part in projects in Nouakchott, Dakar, Barcelona, Berlin, Mumbay among others. He lives and works in Nouakchott, Mauritania.
This work is a recontextualization of a piece from 2016 titled SKIN where close up topographies of bodies can easily be perceived as landscapes. The subtitles are written in a conversational tone mimicking that of an artist talk and create a space of reflection on my relationship to my skin then and now. It places the issues of race and modern day imperialism face to face with the conversation on the climate crisis.
Tamara Al-Mashouk is a London based Arab artist, curator, and organizer. Through multi-channel video, performance, and architectural installation, her work explores the movement of people across societal and geographic borders and negotiates the relationship between home, identity, and memory. It examines resistance as a site of potential and expands epigenetics beyond the body into place and matter.
She has screened video internationally at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Yuan Museum in Beijing, Fábrica de Arte Cubano in Havana, and more. She has been interviewed in Forbes, Vice Arabia, and on BBC Radio. She has curated countless panels including for Arab Women Artists Now, has spoken at Tate Britain, was a 2018-2019 research fellow with the Center for Arts Design and Social Research and a 2019 – 2020 Traveling Fellow for the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. She holds a BA in architecture from Wellesley College and a Post-Bac and MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University, Boston.
The story of Iraq’s climate and environmental crisis is one of many layers, each generational challenge compounded by another. We wanted to use the iconic (and delicious) Basra Date Syrup jar as a starting point from which to explore the legacies of palm groves among other issues in the soil, water and air. But we also wanted to simultaneously rewind and fast forward – to relish in the abundance that Iraq once had and the joyous moments that we hope will return.
Alaa Alsaraji is a London-based visual artist, designer and creative facilitator. Through her creative practice she aims to explore themes such as belonging, reimagining space and community and the impacts of Islamophobia in British society, predominately using the medium of digital illustration. She also works with various creative and educational organisations and collectives as a facilitator, delivering creative workshops with children and women’s groups. In her work she always seeks to emphasise the value of using creativity as a pedagogical process to address and explore structural issues and their impact on individuals and communities.
Alaa is also the arts editor of Khidr Collective, a multidisciplinary artist collective creating platforms and spaces for young Muslim creatives through the annual Khidr Zine and online platform.
Zainab Rahim is a writer and editor. She works for a legal charity called RAID, holding corporations to account for human rights abuse and environmental damage. She has recently completed an MA in Postcolonial Culture & Global Policy.
Alongside this, Zainab is the non-fiction editor of @KhidrCollective’s annual zine and has contributed to their newest issue, WATER. She is also the editor-in-chief of a commentary website called The Platform (@YourPlatformUK) seeking to share marginalised stories.
Zainab enjoys archives and photography, as well as feature writing, and hopes to continue developing her skills in these areas. Her review of television drama Baghdad Central was published in Issue 36 of Critical Muslim by Hurst Publishers. Follow her @zainoted.
When we think of climate change, it is the present that comes to mind – and how things were good in past. Looking back at our traditions, we used essential tools to make beautiful things.
That is what inspired this project. The traditional clothes were made from locally-sourced materials and then hand-crafted. Each item of clothing had a story to tell. Each region had its colour, material, embroidery and style for how to wear the garments. At times the clothes were passed on from one member of the family to another, because they were durable and made to last.
We need to revisit our traditions to see how we can make a change. Our fast way of life will have to change due to the damage we are causing to the Earth. So why not slow it down ourselves before it’s too late?
Ala Buisir is a documentary photographer born in Ireland with Libyan roots. A graduate with a BA in Photography from TU Dublin. Then an MA in Journalism from DCU and currently doing a PhD by practice in UL. Her work documents the social and political tension around us today. The aim is to raise awareness by presenting events through different perspectives in hopes that it may also bring about change.
Ecolo à Djibouti: Citizen action at the heart of the ecological transition
How Ecolo à Djibouti came into being
Some passions are difficult to articulate. They might make us happy, help us to bring comfort to others, and strengthen our bonds. As for me, I willingly inherited my passions from my father.
My father has been a teacher for most of his career. Passionate about education, he has always championed reading. My brothers, sisters and I spent our childhood immersed in a world of fairies, monsters, and adventures. As children, we would gather together before our afternoon nap – book in hand – to read. It was a moment of shared experience that, over many years, became a family ritual.
As a huge fan of Nicolas Hulot, Yann Arthus Bertrand and the National Geographic, my father also had a great love for nature, animals, and the great outdoors. So I got into the habit of watching documentaries with him; on the management of wildlife parks, the depths of the oceans, the rescue of Kenya’s last giraffes, how man lived side by side with large carnivores, the melting glaciers, the future of the forests, the impact of globalisation on our environment… So many documentaries which filled us with wonder, took us on journeys, explained complicated subjects in very simple ways, but above all ensured that we had a great time together as a family.
It was a passion which was passed on to us gently over time – never forced on us. Thanks to my family, my passion for literature and my interest in environmental issues have become part of my life. When the time came for me to choose my own profession it was therefore natural for me to become an engineer, specialising in energy and sustainable development. It is a job that has opened my eyes to many subjects such as sustainable development or renewable energies, and above all has reinforced my interest in ecology.
Today, this subject is an integral part of my life, even more so now that I have children of my own. I am trying, in my own small ways, to be more environmentally responsible in my behaviour. My desire to share my journey and all my thoughts around it gave birth to the idea for my blog, Ecolo à Djibouti.
There is a sense in Djibouti, and throughout Africa, that environmental conversations are confined to small circles, held in a rarefied air, and don’t reach the wider population. The idea behind the blog was therefore to reach the general public in a clear and simple way, and raise the awareness of one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century: how do we encourage respect for the environment? From information on sustainable development to tips on reducing waste, Ecolo à Djibouti aims to be easy to read and accessible for everyone. The most important thing is to provide reliable information to citizens of all ages. To arouse, perhaps, their curiosity and ecological conscience.
A collective movement begins with the individual
Ecology is an awareness of what surrounds us, of the fragility of the world we live in, and the urgent need to take care of it. Sharing information, therefore, becomes an important component to both educate and raise awareness of how to bring about real change in people’s perception of the environment. However, that unfortunately isn’t enough. In truth, an environmental awareness and ecological understanding cannot solely be based on the knowledge that life on planet earth is fragile. It must be accompanied by a change in the behavior of the whole society.
“We know that climate change is serious, but there is nothing we can do about it.”
It is futile for us to say we can do nothing to protect the environment because others are causing more damage. We have to act. Now. I’m convinced that we need to stop waiting for change to come from the outside, and instead start thinking about what we can do today. There is no such thing as small actions. Every action counts, and it all builds towards us reducing our impact on the environment. These small gestures, when put together, can make a big difference.
The movement in Djibouti was born as more and more people who were also sensitive to ecology and nature protection gradually expressed their desire to join the actions outlined in the blog. The ethos of my blog is to both unite and mobilise everyone with a stake in society. It encourages the emergence of collective action. It is a movement that also seeks to raise the profile of the work our fellow citizens are doing already. By reading the blog, people discover the numerous green initiatives launched in Djibouti every day, and the work being done to promote sustainable development. This gives us the opportunity to support them, be inspired by them, and to amplify their impact.
I think we must also pay special attention to young people, who are the key actors in tomorrow’s ecological transition. Environmental education has a great role to play in helping young people adopt eco-responsible behaviour now and work to preserve their environment. I regularly volunteer to give lessons in Djibouti high schools, an initiative we hope to expand to more schools throughout the movement. With this kind of training and education we can enable the young people to change both hearts and minds in the long term.
Making the voice of Africa, and Africans, heard
In Djibouti, as in the rest of Africa, citizen actions for the environment are being initiated and slowly implemented. They frequently come up against limits and difficulties which hinders their effectiveness; lack of legitimacy, of coordination and visibility, difficulty in extending projects. Yet they remain essential insofar as the ecological transition requires a collective response from all parties; governments, the private sector, civil society and the citizens themselves. It is therefore vital in African states that citizen participation is integrated into the framework of the public decision-making process if initiatives are to have a meaningful environmental impact.
In Africa, citizen actions will have a significant impact in raising public awareness. Too few people are currently aware of the environmental issues already affecting the continent and threatening its inhabitants. Many Africans, for example, know about the devastating forest fires in the Amazon, but few know about the millions of hectares of forest disappearing each year in the Congo Basin. With better access to information, people will be able to reclaim and better preserve their natural resources.
Yet if little space is given to the discussion of environmental issues by governments at home in Africa, it is worse on the international stage where Africa and the most affected indigenous communities are being ignored. These vulnerable populations, who are on the frontline of the climate crisis, rarely make headlines around the world. In August 2021, the Western media was focused on flooding in Southern Germany and Belgium, while the deadly floods in the Niger received little coverage.
This lack of coverage extends further, to the visibility of African activists who struggle to find a platform to express themselves. This is not for their lack of initiatives to tackle global warming. Rather, African voices carry less weight at global environmental summits. The media treatment of the young Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate is the perfect example. Almost two years after she was first cropped out a photo with Greta Thunberg, Nakate was once again cropped out of a photo with the Swedish activist at COP26. The erasure of Africa in the climate debate is part of a systemic conversation that frames the climate crisis as a “white people’s problem” and consistently devalues the voice of Black people.
But who is already amplifying their voices in their own countries?
As well as being excluded from the global media, African activists are less represented in global warming debates because they face more barriers to participation than their peers. There is limited funding, a lack of accreditation and, above all, a lack of support from their home countries – all of which limit the participation of young people most exposed to the impact of the climate crisis. African nations often lack the capacity to negotiate on an equal footing with their partners in the Global North. What can they do?
First and foremost it is about empowering citizens with all the necessary tools to understand and act in favour of their environment. The policies and actions of the government have to rely on citizen engagement in order to enact the ecological transition. Then, they will be better placed to demand climate justice from countries in the Global North who have not yet honoured their pledges in the Paris climate agreement. They may even be able to influence environmental policy decision making on the international stage.
Will this be enough to change the playing field? One thing is for certain; if we don’t try, we won’t succeed!
Amina Idan Paul is an Engineer in energy and sustainable development for the Ministry of Energy in charge of Natural Resources in Djibouti. Her work consists in the design and management of innovative solutions to reduce energy consumption. That led her to work on projects related to wind power, photovoltaics and biomass.
Very sensitive to ecology, Amina is an environmental activist, a blogger, and the founder of an environmental movement called Ecolo à Djibouti. Through these initiatives, she wants to raise awareness about environmental issues and the importance of changing our attitude towards nature.
In 2021, she was appointed as an Earth Champion, charged with leading the way in the construction of Africa by IGAD-ICPAC.