Guest Voices: Georgia Papageorge

Today’s guest post comes from South African artist Georgia Papageorge.  Both an artist and an environmental activist, Papageorge’s 2-channel video installation Kilimanjaro/Coldfire, was a centerpiece of the Earth Matters exhibition. Having observed and studied the receding glacier of Kilimanjaro and linked it inextricably to the illegal charcoal trade in Africa, Papageorge here offers us some of her personal meditations on art and the environment.                                       


The artist’s relationship to the Earth we stand on and which is based on where we live in Africa, mutates to the broader picture of planet Earth which is in trouble.

Forty artists, 24 different countries, the ideas of people who engage in diverse ways of commenting on issues that affect not only the way we live but how we will live in the future.  Many of the works in the EARTH MATTERS Exhibition expressed a common human anxiety about circumstances the artists themselves had no control of.  I was no different to my fellow exhibiting artists, all who sought to shed light upon a given situation in order to bring about awareness and change.

This brings us to the role of the artist today. I believe that the artist’s role is to tell the truth and to try and bring about change through a unique approach that can employ a wide range of sources, not the least of these involving ritual, religion and magic.  The artist is often greatly restricted where funds/money is concerned but he/she is free to explore extraordinary ranges of the imagination in the creation of any given artwork.

On your own, unless your work is seen, nothing can happen.  But if you form part of a diverse body of work on an exhibition like EARTH MATTERS your voice should be heard by individuals or groups with a responsible docent helping them to understand what they are looking at.  The question is –  do artists merely document a given situation or can they actually bring about change?  I believe, that when correctly displayed and understood, an artwork can drive its message home.  And that can create change.

My Kilimanjaro/ColdFire  video deals with Kilimanjaro’s  rapidly melting glaciers, indicative of a global phenomenon and that is alleged to be  caused by increasing quantities of greenhouse gasses being released into the atmosphere, all of which contribute to climate change.  The video imparts a Dante-esque vision of Heaven and Hell, projected through the elements of Fire and Ice.  The Fire half of this twin sided video deals with deforestation at tropical zones and the illegal charcoal trade in Central Africa that destroys countless rain forest trees and hardwood acacias.  Destruction of rain forests at tropical zones accounts for approximately one-fifth of recent human-produced CO2 emissions.

What will we be left within a relatively short space of time as pristine environments on the surface of the Earth fall to an economic scythe manipulated through greed and graft?  When we destroy the natural wonders of our Earth, from  the loss of the remaining rain forests on earth to depriving 2 million animals of their need to migrate over great  open grasslands in Central Africa,  we ultimately destroy ourselves.  Yet, if enough people have the courage to fight for the wonders that still exist on planet Earth there may still be a heritage for those that follow us.

Georgia Papageorge.  August 2013


Georgia Papageorge (b. 1941, South Africa)

Kilimanjaro Souther Glaciers, 2010

Mixed Media, 238cm x 148 cm

NMAfA_EM_Papageorge_04      NMAfA_EM_Papageorge_03

Georgia Papageorge (b. 1941, South Africa)

Kilimanjaro/Cold Fire, 2010

Two channel video and sound projection (11 min.)


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