Thursday, November 29, 2012

Conversations about art, function and nature at the Green Expo

The Green Art exhibition is a new initiative of the Green Expo in collaboration with artists. Conceptualized and curated by visual artist Janet Botes, the exhibition aims to offer expo visitors a new experience in the form of artworks by different local artists. For the 2012 installment of the exhibition, entitled (eco)nversations, held at the Green Expo in assocation with National Geographic Channel 281, from 23-25 November, 8 artists exhibited work which ranged from painting, scupture, installation art and live, interactive art. The participating  artists for 2012 was: Simon Max Bannister, Janet Ranson, Stefanie Schoeman, Janet Botes, Danelle Malan, Nicolle Marais, Claire Homewood. Kai Lossgott wrote ‘A Green Manifesto’ in consultation with the curator and other participating artists.

Janet Ranson's Upset Tree and Avenue of Trees are dramatic assemblages of found timber and reclaimed nylon packaging material as a simple metaphor for humankind’s devastation of the natural order.

The Collage Mural Project is an interactive piece conceived and facilitated by Claire Homewood. Expo visitors were invited to create collages around the theme of (Eco)nversations. Artists used these collages as inspiration for collaborative mural painting

STEFANIE SCHOEMAN is particularly inspired by desert landscapes and, while spending the last year between the Karoo and Namibia, she has recognised these quiet open spaces as the current theme in her work.

Simon Max Bannister's Fragments of Paradise is a series of eroded plastic flotsam that were caught as samples in the middle of the Atlantic gyre

This exhibition was made possible by collaboration between the artists, the Green Expo organizers, the Shoprite Checkers Strokes of Genius art project, Pronature Paints and Xanita. The exhibition is hosted, sponsored and in partnership with the Green Expo in association with National Geographic Channel 281, organized by Three City Events. The exhibition aims to become an integral part of the Green Expo in the future of this annual event.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Learning from Nature

by Tayla Tucker

I recently went to a film festival which was part of the ‘Sustain our Africa Summit’ and watched a film entitled: ‘Second Nature – The Biomimicry Evolution.’ This film explored the emerging discipline of biomimicry, which examines nature’s best ideas, models, systems and processes, and emulates them to solve human problems. The film was inspired by famous biologist Janine Benyus and followed her and the Biomimicry Institute team in the bush in South Africa as they demonstrated how organisms in the natural world can show us how to be more sustainable and efficient with the things we already have.
 Biomimicry, also known as Biometrics, comes from the Greek words ‘bios’ = life; ‘mimesis’= imitate, and is not a new idea. Man has been looking at nature for answers, both simple and complex, throughout existence. An early example of Biomimicry in Engineering is the study of birds for human flight and even today the most advanced aeroplane building companies are looking at wing structure of larger birds in order create safer commercial passenger carriers.

"The more our world functions like the natural world,the more likely we are to endure on this home that is ours,but not ours alone." ~ Janine Benyus

Throughout the video Janine gives us examples of designs from nature and how they have been used to create superior man-made products, an example being the Lotus leaf. A Lotus leaf is self-cleaning, which means that after rainfall it is clear of water as well as dirt. Janine explains that the surface topography of the leaf interacts with water molecules in a way which allows water to roll off taking dirt with it. A company by the name of Sto Corp has created a sealer which mimics this topography, effectively creating a self cleaning paint. This simple sealer has the potential to change home life forever. No more having to physically wash the walls, the rain can do it, or a simple spray with a hose pipe. This should also eliminate the use of soaps; which will be good for the environment.

Images: (left) by Janet Botes, (right) sourced from EcoSalon

If we can learn techniques like this from something as simple as a leaf, imagine what else is waiting out there to be discovered! Nature has been evolving for 3.6 billion years, testing through trail and error, in order to create the most effective with the least resistance. There is so much we can learn, we just need to open our eyes to what is in front of us.

There is a local Biomimicry organisation which provides information and offers courses, where you can learn more about this amazing new branch of science! Go to for more information.

Here is a link to a bio of Janine Benyus as part of TEDx, which also includes links to talks that she has given:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Artist Feature: Galia Gluckman

written by Chelsea Amór Lotz 

Galia Gluckman is well known for her vibrant, cutting edge, yet decidedly tasteful eco art. Born in Israel, but living and having spent her childhood in Cape Town, this young artist has taken the world by a storm with her eco artworks, made from 95% recycled cardboard and paper. Galia, who is primarily inspired by the earths beautiful landscapes and the colours and textures that go with it, uses a process of going through old magazines, finding colors that match and assembling them to create a master piece. Her motivation as she clearly states is ‘Order, arising from disorder’.

  Galia Gluckman with one of her eco artworks - a warm landscape art piece created by using magazine paper clippings

Galia explains in her own words:
“Pattern, whether in nature or art, relied upon three characteristics: A unit, repetition and a system organization. I question how these regular and irregular patterns develop and what sort of rules and guidelines shape patterns in the world around us. It seems as though order arises spontaneously from disorder and that patterns can emerge through a process of self-organization. Many irregular patterns are simply not random, they often display an underlying structure.”

Landscape of the Atlantic Seaboard of Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa, using discarded or recycled paper

Galia has been featured by a host a various magazines, such as: The Oprah Magazine, Good Taste magazine and The Guardian amongst many other publications. Her work proves that eco art can be attractive and aesthetically pleasing, as well and kind to the environment!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Engage & join the conversation!

During the 2012 Cape Town Green Expo in association with National Geographic Channel 281, 8 artists are exhibiting artworks and art installations that engage the viewer about our planet, seeking to spark dialogues about our connection and relationship with our natural environment.

Eight Artists, One Planet

Each artwork in some way talks to and about: nature, the earth, the natural world, the planet, the ecosystem, the biosphere, our natural heritage - and our place within it.


Simon Max Bannister, Janet Ranson, Kai Lossgott, Stefanie Schoeman, Janet Botes, Danelle Malan, Nicolle Marais, Claire Homewood

The Collage Mural Project, facilitated by Claire Homewood, forms an integral part of the exhibition. Here's the event page for it:

Make sure to read Recession aesthetics and making art without destroying the planet: "A Green Art Manifesto", Kai Lossgott's contribution to (eco)nversations, and part of our catalogue which is available at the exhibition:

Facebook Event page

Sustainable design prototypes from the Fresh Talent competition exhibited at The Hub, Johannesburg

[Issued by MANGO-OMC on behalf of Shift]

Prototypes of the winning designs of the 2011-2012 Fresh Talent competition, hosted by the then known Eco Design Initiative (which in August rebranded to Shift: Inspiring sustainable design) will be on show at The Hub in Johannesburg from 14 November. The exhibition marks the final leg of the past year’s competition and coincides with Global Entrepreneurship week, an international initiative that introduces the act and art of entrepreneurship to young people in various countries.

The exhibition will run from 14-24 November and entry is free.

Says Janine Johnston, CEO of Shift: 
“We are very excited to launch the Johannesburg exhibition of the 2011-2012 competition on this date as one of our aims is to not only teach young creatives to design sustainably but also to think in an entrepreneurial way when designing. After all, sustainable design aims to deliver social, environmental and economic benefits.”
The annual Fresh Talent competition invites young people to design sustainable solutions for a range of challenges faced by people and the environment.  Showcasing the designs and concept prototypes of the 2011-2012 winners and multi-media stories of the finalists’ journey into sustainable design through their participation in Shift’s educational exchange program, the exhibition also offers the opportunity to view global examples of sustainable design curated with INDEXDesign to Improve Life®.

The winners of the 2011-2012 Fresh Talent Competition are:

Gabriele Birkenmayer for Shoots –A Grassroots Bamboo Project (first place)

Shoots – a grassroots bamboo project

“Shoots” is a full-cycle approach to sustainability that produces well-designed, good quality consumer products, furniture in particular, while addressing unemployment in South Africa and caring for the environment.

Shoots aims to involve rural communities in the planting and farming of bamboo in areas that require rehabilitation, such as those affected by soil erosion or water pollution. Bamboo is known to enrich and stabilise soil due to its root system that soaks up heavy metals and aids in water purification. Bamboo is also a highly sustainable plant, reaching maturity in 5 – 6 years and since it is a grass and not a tree, harvesting bamboo does not kill the plant. A bamboo ‘clump’ can be selectively harvested annually for over 100 years. Bamboo also produces up to 30% more oxygen than any other tree, making it not only a sustainable material, but also very environmentally friendly.

The rural communities responsible for growing these ‘plantations’ will be trained in harvesting the plants, converting it into laminated or strand woven boards and how to convert these boards into self-assemble furniture which will ‘last a lifetime’ – in terms of both material durability and non-conformity to any fashion trends.

Wayde Dyers for his Vermiculture Growth System (second place) 

Vermiculture Growth System

The Vermiculture Growth System is a compact composting and rain harvesting system utilizes the benefits of worms – nature’s own recyclers, to convert food waste into nutrient rich, 100% organic fertilizer while harnessing the benefits of rain water to feed plants in home, vegetable and potted gardens.
The Vermiculture Growth System is easy to use and versatile. The unit, which is compact enough to fit on a balcony, in a shed or shaded outdoor location, is made from 70% recycled plastic.

The Vermiculture Growth System consists of five trays and a water catchment. The composting worms, Red Wigglers, start off in the first working tray and they simply eat their way up, “wriggling” into the working trays above, where they can detect the food scraps. Along the way, the worms produce castings (manure)  - also known as “black gold”; trays of which can be removed, diluted and hydrated using the water collected in the system’s rain harvester for plant nourishment.
The cycle is never ending.

Marieke Adams for the Ikghuphu Sleeve (third place)

Ikghuphu Sleeve

Ikghuphu is a series of laptop sleeves made from wet suite factory waste. It draws inspiration from the Ndebele’s abstract patterns decorating clay walls, translating the colours and patterns into a multi-dimensional textile that provides tactile interest and additional protective cushioning for the product inside.

Made using neoprene offcuts –factory waste, and traditional hand crafting techniques this design combines influences of traditional and contemporary homes, in both function and material.

The traditional stitch and craft techniques used in the production of Ikghuphu Sleeves create more opportunities for skills development, job creation and economic empowerment, especially for women. Using “waste” materials reduces the environmental impact and significantly reduces the material costs of production.

The Ikghuphu Sleeve is a sustainable design that appeals to the global contemporary market of laptop users and improves opportunities for sustainable development.

The Exhibition is free and open daily from 9am to 9pm at The Hub, 4 De Beer St (cnr Smit St), Braamfontein, Johannesburg, 2000.

For more information visit, or email or watch the latest videos on

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Land Art by Strijdom van der Merwe - Rocks on sticks in water

Interview with Strijdom van der Merwe

Chelsea Amor Lotz wrote a perspective or review of Eco Art at the end of September. For October her contribution is an interview with renowned and respected South African sculptor and land artist Strijdom van der Merwe! As artist he's traveled widely, participated in Biennials and art festivals in several other countries and continents, and also makes substantial contributions to the local art scene, especially in Stellenbosch where's he's currently based. Without further ado, let's jump right in and read what he has to say about Land Art and the motivation behind his art:

Amor: What inspired you to do land art?

Strijdom: The constant discovery of unknown places and landscapes and materials to work with. To be exposed to the ever changing climate and weather and to be part of the cycles of nature.

Land Art - wire on a rock outcropping in a landscape, by Strijdom van der Merwe

Amor:  How long have you been doing land art for?

Strijdom: I have been working full time as a land artist since 1995, but one can argue that I have been discovering and exploring it since my days as a young boy on the farm where i grew up.

Amor:  What interests you most, about the concept of land art?

Strijdom: That you work outside the gallery space and that you are only bound by the rules and regulations of nature. Very important that most of the works exist because of there surrounding areas. The land is not a setting for the work but a part of the work. you learn to look wider and appreciate the interaction between many things.

Artwork made during an artist residency and land art festival, by land artist Strijdom van der Merwe

Amor: Can you please tell us more about your most recent piece of land art?

Strijdom: The most recent large scale work was done for the Tulbagh Art Festival. We wrapped several hundred of renoster bush in red fabric on Gageheuwel just outside of town.The reason for doing that is because it was the Spring Festival and Galgeheuwel is well known for all the flowers and bulbs that bloom that time of the year. This work was to make people more aware of the blooming of colour that last only for n few weeks before the change into summer. It was a celebration of the short lived beauty of colour. This work enhanced the fact that nature is ever changing. The red fabric was dismantle after three days.

Strijdom van der Merwe
Tulbagh, Western Cape, South Africa
August 2012

more images on Land Art SA

Amor:  How do you see land art as relevant to the connection between man and nature?

Strijdom: We are nature. We are in the danger of losing our balance with nature. No matter how sophisticated we become, we are still part of the cycles of nature. Land art strengthens that connection and reminds us of our close connection. It also makes us aware of the dangers of not living sensitive towards the resources we have. We can't keep on taking, we have to learn to share.

Circle made by sweeping or removing fallen leaves on a lawn, by Strijdom van der Merwe

Amor:  Which landscapes do you find the most inspiring?

Strijdom: The semi desert areas of the Karoo I have always found inspiring, it's like a blank canvas. But the most surprising is always the most unexpected landscapes. That is what makes land art so wonderful, you can sit in your studio and decide what to do, you have to walk the studio of your canvas to be inspired and only thén the creativity will follow.

Amor:  What is your 'dream piece'?

Strijdom: Always the next one. As a creative person you are always busy exploring, even when you're busy with one work, the ideas of the new better work have already taken place in your mind. And so it becomes a vicious circle of never ending discovery. What a blessing.

Art installation in a natural landscape or forest

Amor:  Do you try to portray particular messages and meanings through your land art?

Strijdom: It depends from work to work. But in general, no, I don't go out to make a statement. I will always first let the forces of nature influence me, and what is created is a result of the site. But, when it comes to certain art festivals or commissions then you have an obligation towards the client and people - most of the time a certain theme has to be addressed. Recently I had an art work installation at the Circa gallery in Johannesburg where I made a statement against 'fracking' in the Karoo, because I felt it was necessary that by working in the landscape and having a close relationship with the landscape, you have to raise your voice in protest.

Commissioned artwork or installation art by Strijdom van der Merwe in South Africa of a field of yellow hands

Amor:  Do you see yourself still doing land art, in 20 years time?

Strijdom: Yes, I guess that will be he case, the format may change and the scale of the work may change but the message may still be the same.

Amor:  What advice do you have for artists seeking to experiment with, and explore the medium of land through art?

Strijdom: This is no easy road. You have to learn the basics of art, going through all the disciplines of colour use, balance, perspective etc. Once you have an educated understanding of the history of art, and nature and human interaction, only then will you be able to create work that is a true and honest reflection of the site and understanding of our relationship with nature. To put 10 stones in a line to end up as an artwork is a life time of knowledge and sensitive observation. But the rewards are greater than any painting that hangs on a wall.

Strijdom van der Merwe's work is included in many private and public art collections. His work can be seen on his website and featured on He is an integral part as artist, founder and committee member of South Africa’s first international Land Art event, entitled Site_Specific. Two beautiful coffee table books of Strijdom's art is published and available from:

Sculpting the Land - | Exclusive Books
Sculpting the Earth - | Exclusive Books


Chelsea Amor Lotz is a mother, model, humanitarian, entrepreneur, professional writer & author, living for the evolution in consciousness.