Art for Conservation
The first reference to art can be traced to cave paintings of our ancestors sharing their surviving skills. Later on the helicopter sketches of Leonardo da Vinci are credited for the idea of air travel. After World War II, artists played a key role in uplifting people from post-war depression by creating engaging and humourous visual content. Throughout the course of history, art has not only documented events, and the transformation of societies but has also been a driving force behind cultural changes.
Over the last century, the world has advanced in an unprecedented manner. The field of art has also felt an impact with the addition of new art forms, while diverting from more traditional ones. There is a trend of using art to create awareness on topics of a wide range of social and environmental issues. At the same time art is being used as a tool for commercial advertisements.
In today’s fast paced world, little thought is given to differentiate between price and value. Resource accumulation is the goal these days, no matter the cost. Again there is a need for artists to take responsibility to project the cause of the environment. It is not too late for artists globally to take up the cause of conservation and use this medium of communication to highlight the importance of protecting our ecosystem. It is essential for artists to understand the dynamics of the ecosystems they are a part of. While it is important that one creates art based on one’s inspiration, it should not be the sole basis for creating art. Time has come for artists to learn about facts on the basis of which all creation is based. How can an artist project his thinking without the background knowledge of the ecological processes that involve all sciences? This is not the time to think in isolation. Artists must wake up and through their creativity based on ecological knowledge, shake and educate the general public to build sustainable ecosystems. Environmental educational programmes, nature friendly architecture, eco-friendly designing and engineering, paintings, poetry, films and dramas can play a significant role in inspiring human activities for nature conservation.
As a nature artist myself, I have worked on conservation projects over the past several years. I have travelled all over to understand and admire the beauty of my country and I have tried to create awareness through my work, be it the Nature Comic that became so popular that even the illiterate mohanas (fisherman communities of the Indus River) became interested in what the dolphin cartoons were about. The cartoons were created, focusing on visual expressions, to describe the whole topic to an uneducated person. Believe it or not these books changed the perceptions of the locals towards nature and they became vigilant conservationists, adopting alternatives that were economically viable as well.
Artists should not be shy to communicate their message to others and the biggest medium they can use is mainstream media. Knowledgeable creative writers can produce plots for films, TV, radio and theatre to play a major role in spreading nature conservation messages. At the start of my career, I had the opportunity to present issues regarding nature conservation in front of the then President of Pakistan, Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari and other concerned ministers through stage and today my students continue to deliver the message of conservation through performing arts too.
I have also used the medium of painting to communicate the need for nature conservation. I painted shy birds to show their beauty and role in nature, and created a series of paintings on birds which were once a common sight but have now been forced into extinction due to human practices. Truck Art in Nature was another one of my series dedicated to sustained truck art in Pakistan, where mountains, birds and trees from the country’s high altitudes are painted and exhibited from Kabul to Gwadar. Talking about culture in Pakistan, birds depicting folk stories were also part of my work to educate people about birds of these areas.
I shared my input as a nature artist with you to tell you that an artist can influence people, creating a ripple effect towards positive change. Today’s environmental issues need to be strongly projected to induce voluntary efforts to address them. I have seen some success in my mission of changing attitudes of communities around me and I am determined to continue. If everyone focuses on communities around them, the change will be quite visible and effective.
Huma Wasiq is a Pakistani nature artist with a passion for conservation.