Women Standing up for Trees

While doing research about the native trees of the Thar desert in Rajasthan, I noticed an interesting connection between trees and women that goes way back in time in India.

Planting of Moringa tree, Chandelao Garh near Jodhpur in Rajasthan, India, 2019 (photo: Olga Mihova)

When the king of Jodhpur in 1730 ordered cutting down of the local Khejri trees for the sake of building his new palace, a woman named Amrita Devi, along with her three young daughters, stood up for the protection of the trees, but were brutally killed along with 350 other people who also joined the protest. Amrita Devi belonged to the Bishnoi community that also today is known for its great love for conservation.

It was this 1st environmentalist movement in India, that centuries later was the inspiration for the famous Chipko movement in the Himalayan region of Northern India.
The historical story of Chipko began in 1974, when Gaura Devi, along with other women, created a human chain to prevent contractors from causing damage to the forests, their home in the small village of Reni in Uttarakhand.
There was a long dispute between the forest department and the community, but contrary to the early Bishnoi movement, the Chipko movement succeed in causing the contractors to finally withdraw their plan of cutting the trees (and the protesters!).
The Chipko movement quickly spread throughout the Indian Himalayas and continues to this day as a mainly de-centralised and autonomous peasant and women’s movement for forest rights and the raising of awareness about environmental protection. 

The Hindi word chipko means “to hug” or “to cling to” and reflects the demonstrators’ primary tactic of embracing the trees to impede the loggers.

Recently in 2014, a group of women in Odisha took inspiration from the Chipko movement when standing up for the trees in Jhinkargadi forest in their village Balarampur.

CATWALK – a pilGrimAge

During my artist residency at L'Observatoire in Singapore, I did a walk called "CATWALK – a pilGrimAge" from L'Observatoire to Bukit Timah Visitor Centre, which is situated in one of Singapore's National Parks.  

This wander made me wonder, why we wear wild prints, and why we drink. And finally inspired me to do a landscape (painting).


Women in Trees

Join the movement!!! #womenintrees 🌳💃🏻🌴💚 inspired by book by Jochen Raib, who discovered this motif, when he collected photos from flea markets - most photos are from the 1920s-1950s, and the question is: what were all these well dressed women doing in trees? The answer might surface, if you try it out yourself. Who knows?

Stand Tall with The Trees

On International Day of Forests 2019, I conducted an event, Stand Tall with The Trees in the nearby forest of L'Observatoire, where I currently am an artist in residence.

Congratulations to the participants, who managed to stand still in a tropical secondary rainforest full of lively creatures, who also wanted to join the party 😅
Afterwards we enjoyed a l'dejeuner sur l'herbe.

Survival Gear

Easy to spot - but how to distinguish between magic sticks, walking sticks, talking sticks, pointing sticks, tickling sticks, poking sticks, and selfie sticks
Well, as part of my residency at L'Observatoire in Singapore, I collected sticks in the nearby forest and made my own collection of survival gear for forest fantasies and other forestic affairs 🌳 
The false arm has followed me from a previous project years ago, always good to have an extra arm.

Into the Wild

As part of my residency at L'Observatoire, it has been great fun to “go into the wild” as explorers of the nearby forest with 4 different groups of teachers and children from Blue House International 💙. The children were thrilled to go on adventure, and their enthusiasm and curiosity was infectious 🙌🏼👀🌳🖼👣🌴
Thank you all 💚

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