Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"Imagine the Unthinkable" installation by Strijdom van der Merwe

"Imagine the Unthinkable", Strijdom van der Merwe, Installation View, exhibited at Circa on Jellicoe, JHB. Photograph from the BEELD.

Land artist Strijdom van der Merwe created an art installation entitled "Imagine the Unthinkable" as part of his exhibition 'Drawing clouds in the Karoo' at Circa on Jellicoe, Johannesburg. The installation comments and expresses the effects or nature of fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, planned for the arid and beautiful Karoo basin. Fracking entails drilling into the earth, and extracting natural gas from the shale layers by flushing a cocktail of chemicals and water down the shaft and into the rock layers to fracture the shale and release the gas captured in these layers. Strijdom's work makes use of maps of the actual sites for which drilling and fracking is planned, and uses sound as a device to accentuate the unnatural and disturbing nature of the process.

As with most industrial and mining processes, there is a lot of money to be made, and the companies who benefit from this have no qualms in doing what is needed to stake their claim and make their profits. At the cost of the environment, and the local people who need to live with the consequences - in this case the very high risk of contaminated ground water and reduced air quality caused by toxic pollution (particularly from the spent fracking fluid 'dams' and from cracks in the drilling shaft).

Van der Merwe does not perceive himself as a protest artist. His work usually rather enhances or encouarges an appreciation for nature's beauty. He aims to strengthen or accentuate the landscape's inherent beauty, and through this sometimes make people more aware about desertification, global warming and nature conservation. He often works in the Karoo, and therefore the risks or threat that fracking poses are a very real and personal matter.

Read more about the art installation:

Read more about fracking in the Karoo:

Friday, January 25, 2013

Want to see this go forward? Get involved!

The Green Your Art (GYA) initiative may seem like quite a young structure, movement or organization. But, it really isn't. Firstly, as an initiative started by visual artist Janet Botes, it has been evolving and transforming - first as "Greenivate" since 2007, then as "Ecojunki", but always with a central focus on encouraging acceptance, responsibility and compassion towards all living things and our planet. Secondly, it forms part of a larger and very important movement and awareness by an increasing mass of people. It includes people from all walks of life and artists of all types, levels and creative forms.

As much as I (Janet) have a passion for encouraging and supporting the use of natural materials, I am shifting my focus towards the creation, manifestation and promoting of my own art. My art hugely relies on the use of natural materials, found materials and 'waste' repurposing, and is primarily inspired by the natural landscape in its various interpretations. Currently the focus is on natural processes, rhythms and my aim is to inspire people to reconnect to nature - outside and within themselves - and thus to encourage healing, initially of human's disconnection to the natural world, and subsequently the healing and nurturing of our planet.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post - if you are passionate about the ideals and aims of the GYA initiative, and would like to become involved, please contact Janet at There will be a meeting in February or March 2013, regarding the future of the initiative. A GYA team will be formed, with shared responsibilities and a range of skills, to ensure this initiative is able to make a difference, and also that it has a sustainable and viable future.

Thank you for everyone who has been involved up to now with GYA, and who has worked towards raising awareness for environmental issues with me. Special thanks to Nicolle Basson, for your effort, work and involvement. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

When Great Trees Fall, by Maya Angelou

When Great Trees Fall

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

Maya Angelou