Collaborative murals can empower a community to take action. These large-scale art projects are an effective way to promote collaboration and involve people in an art project that is visual, achievable, and rewarding.
In Accra, Ghana, we partnered with eight environmental organizations and Nicholas Wayo, a Ghanian artist, to do just that: create a large-scale mural portraying the effects of climate change on the community of Accra. Through creative collaboration, our partners came together to describe not only the impacts of climate change but the way forward.
During the clinic in Ghana, participants from CSRAD, PAORP-VWC, University of Ghana, Conservation Alliance International, Greenglobe Ghana, Ahado Youth Environmental Club, Agrointroductions Ghana, and Conservation Foundation shared knowledge, experiences, and reflections about climate change and the mural served to express their ideas visually in a public space.
The wall is located on the Kanda highway at exactly the roundabout, near to a cluster of schools. The wall stands about 10 x 24 feet. Since most of the participants’ work is centered in rural areas, the mural also works as a way to exchange between rural community voices and the population of the capital city to generate a more inclusive and shared reflection on climate change.
In both rural and urban areas, the global measures and restrictions related to the pandemic have brought many challenges to the work in community organizing. However, this context can be understood as an opportunity to create new ways of collaborating. During the clinic, we experienced how virtuality offers many possibilities to create meaningful and engaging actions.
During our virtual sessions, our partners described how poor management of water resources, the effect of climate change on tribal traditional foods, plant species being eroded by climate change, marine plastic pollution, changes in traditional farming, difficulties in adopting sustainable farming methods, and reduction of food production.
Hehetror Augustine identified that: “Rain pattern in Hohoe is unpredictable and deviates from the normal trend of the rain pattern that boosted food production in the past. It is becoming very difficult for farmers to rely on rain for agricultural purposes.”
Access to clean water became a common theme amongst the participants and a central issue plaguing their communities.
“The effects of climate change have deeply been felt in Ghana’s fishing industry,” Henrietta Asiedu explained. For years now, plastic bottles, black polythene bags, and food waste, among other unwanted materials, are indiscriminately disposed of into the seas.”
This disturbance in Ghana’s fishing industry has had radiating impacts on food systems, especially in indigenous communities. Awambeng Azeh expressed this impact: “Native traditional foods, species, and indigenous peoples’ use are attuned to particular climates and ecosystems. Climate change is affecting this balance, throwing ecosystems and traditional foods into disarray.” Though many understand the complex interconnections in the environment, there may be a lack of awareness about the disproportionate impact on people.
Once these initial reflections happened, we aimed to make a deeper analysis of the exposed issues using the Five Whys technique.
The Five Why is a an activity that asks "Why?" five times to get to the root cause of any given issue. By repeatedly asking the question "Why?" you peel away the layers of symptoms, unraveling root causes and directing you toward integral solutions. It is a simple and easy to complete tool that may also help determine the relationship between the root causes of a problem.
By identifying the root causes of the environmental issues, participants were able to propose practical solutions to transform the disadvantageous scenarios that Ghanian communities are facing.
We invited the participants to translate these ideas into simple drawings, collages, photographs, poems, digital, mixed media, or any other form of art expression that they wanted. During this part of the process, more than crafting a “perfect piece of art,” we promoted the use of arts as a means of expression. In this sense, the most important thing is the message and the creativity of each of the art products.
As final steps, we gathered all the sketches and ideas that participants submitted, created a final design and Nicholas Wayo painted the mural. Since the mural is on the main road of Ghana's capital, it will be seen by many people of the region and will provide an opportunity to raise awareness about environmental issues in the African country.
In designing and painting this mural, we hope to illuminate participants’ stories and invite engagement and collective ownership in the topic of climate change.