Earth Matters Around the Web : Teen Writing Workshop in African Art

A short time ago, teens and teachers participated in a workshop at the Smithsonian, National Museum of African Art in our esteemed Warren M. Robbins Library. Building their critical writing skills around the Earth Matters exhibition and the Feldman method of art criticism, students took an intellectual journey through the exhibit. The video documents their adventure, check it out!


Rabi Forest Monitoring Plot and U.S. Gabon Tree-Banding

Today’s guest post comes to us from Hervé R. Memiaghe, a forest ecologist working in the Gabonese Republic, a coastal, equatorial country in Africa. The Gabonese Republic was the major sponsor of the Smithsonian, National Museum of African Art’s exhibition, Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa. As you will read, the Earth Matters partnership between the Smithsonian and Gabon is one of many productive collaborations. In August, the author of this post will participate in a 3-month professional internship at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and return to the Gabonese Republic with expertise in the measurement of tree growth in reponse to climate change. For more information on tree-banding, take a look at the blog post below!

Gabon is a country whose territory is covered almost 80% by tropical rainforest, rich in biodiversity. Lack of knowledge on such topics as botanical science and forest ecology in Gabon as well as the rest of the Congo Basin prompted the Smithsonian Institution to conduct studies to provide a better understanding of forestry dynamics in Gabon. A pillar of this forestry research program was established in 2010, when the Smithsonian set up a 25-hectare permanent forest monitoring plot as part of the Smithsonian Institution Global Earth Observatories’ (SIGEO) world-wide network of forest plots. The purpose of this plot is to enhance knowledge of botany, climate change, forestry carbon stock, forest dynamics and ecology. The plot in Gabon is located in Rabi, an area where both oil and logging companies are operating.

whitnetmushroom Elephantfamilyonoilcamp Gorillafootprint   SneakRhamnopisaethiopissa

Gabonese Biodiversity

Clockwise from top-left: White Net Mushroom, Elephant family on the loose in the Shell residential village, Gorilla Footprint; Rhamnophis aethiopissa (Large-eyed Green Treesnake, Splendid Dagger-tooth Tree snake) 


For its part, the Government of Gabon has committed itself to a better understanding of the rich biodiversity of its forests and how they are impacted by climate change in order to implement an efficient forest conservation and sustainable forest management policy together with economic development. Therefore, Gabonese research institutions have been collaborating with international research institutions like the Smithsonian to achieve the goal of combining forestry conservation (Green Gabon/Gabon Vert) and sustainable economic development (Industrial Gabon/Gabon Industriel). Additionally, the development of these types of partnerships could also help Gabon to increase capacity building of many government agencies in the development of many other projects.

Thus, the SIGEO forest monitoring plot in Rabi is one of the fields in Gabon where we have opportunities to improve our capacity to better identify trees, understand forest dynamics and ecology, forestry carbon stock and climate change impact with the involvement of Gabonese technicians and researchers.

The U.S-Gabon tree-banding Project is another opportunity to learn a method to gather more information on tree growth rates, climate change and its impact on Gabon’s tropical rainforest. The involvement of primary schools in this project will be a useful tool to encourage the next generation of young Gabonese and create a better awareness amongst the public of the importance of forest conservation and the theme of climate change. Students will play a key role in carrying the lessons they learn in class of Gabon’s forests from school to home, teaching their families to become more involved in the challenges that the government of Gabon and the entire world are facing today to ensure a better life for future generations.

The tree-banding project will also serve to show teachers how to develop and implement this type of project at school and engage more children and parents to enhance their understanding of our environment and climate change. Use of the tree-banding project at the SIGEO forest monitoring plot in Rabi will also help to add more data on tree growth rate, climate change and forestry carbon stock. And once launched in a few locations, the tree-banding project could be introduced to many communities throughout the country of Gabon. You can learn more about tree-banding at and by watching the video below.




Guest Voices: Artist Christine Dixie

Christine DixieChristine Dixie in front of her work in Earth Matters, Even in the Long Descent I-V – Credit: Glenn Virgin Photography

Our guest post for this Monday features Earth Matters artist Christine Dixie. Dixie’s work features prominently within the “Imagining the Underground” theme of the exhibit, shaping ideas surrounding the exhibit of what investigations into the underground can reveal about our connections to the land.

In this video, produced by the Big Fish School of Digital Filmmaking, Dixie tells us more about her connection to the landscape above ground – another theme in Earth Matters – particularly that of her home in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, found in much of her other work:

©Big Fish School of Filmmaking – all rights reserved. Refrain from downloading, copying, reproducing, publishing, transmitting, or otherwise using any portion of this film without the permission of Big Fish. Please contact them here if you would like more information or to use any portion of this footage. Please see below for full film credits.

Find more from Christine Dixie at her website here, and check out more from Big Fish here. What do you think the connection between landscape, art, and the artists who make that art is? What does it mean to connect with a landscape in a personal and intimate way? How does mapping affect that connection? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Producer/Director: Pumlani Veto

Production Assistant: Unathi Peyana

Camera: Siviwe Besman

Sound/Editing: Pumlani Veto

Additional Footage: Mark Wilby

Special Thanks to:  Chrisitine Dixie, Ruth Simbao, Lindi Arbi, Karen (Rhodes Sculpture Department), Rhodes University

Mentor: Neville Josie

Big Fish Supporting Team: Gail Bond, Connie Mosegedi, Tanya Sutton, Angela Campbell, Maureen Lesufi,  Lazararu Chokewe, Itumeleng Swartz

Training: Loreley Yeowart

Head of Technical: Paul Freathy

Head of Finance: Wilma Rall

Executive Producer: Melanie Chait