Social and environmental learning processes through the arts

The COPART movement that is evolving in South Africa is a network centred around a series of creative social learning events which is incrementally developing an artful social & environmental justice movement and social learning process that brings together creatives, civil society, scientists, academics, activists and other citizens to engage creatively and positively with the complex challenges associated with Climate Change. In particular, COPART has surfaced as a capacity and educational support network for various communities-of-practice who are preparing for COP17, which will be held in South Africa in December 2011. COPART is establishing a bimonthly creative social learning process called the Climate Fluency Exchange.

The COPART Climate Fluency Exchange (CFE) aims to get artists and other creatives to become more climate and environmentally savvy, and to get climate scientists and activists to explore creative process in their work.  The CFE consists of bi-monthly-week-long social learning events, that facilitates creative and innovative participation and social learning for artists, activists, scientists and other citizens. The CFE events draw from participatory arts-based methods, social sculpture, connective aesthetics amongst other methodologies to facilitate creative dialogue around specific issues surrounding climate change, not only covering mitigation and adaptation content, but deeper exploration into personal experiences of the changing climate, its consequences and the cultural change that is needed to respond to it. This process aims to both offer new content, as well as facilitate responsive and reflexive processes that enable the participants to access a deeper understanding of climate change realities.

All climate fluency exchanges are situated in public spaces, buildings or heritages sites.  There are 7 events scheduled from December 2010-November 2011, with most of them being undertaken in partnership with various South African arts festivals. Up to 40 participants will participate in each Exchange. Artists from low-income communities will be particularly encouraged to participate.

The funding provided by APE will support one of the CFE events scheduled between December 2010 and March 2011.

The Environmental Monitoring Group, in partnership with a doctoral research project in the Environmental Learning Research Centre at Rhodes University, is coordinating the Climate Fluency Exchange.

For more information about the first Climate Fluency Exchange which took place in December 2010 to coincide with the COP16 negotiations in Cancun, please check out the videos opposite.


“I have learned the power of openness and collaboration: to be surrounded by people who also trying to find their place in the Climate Change environment and discovering the many options we have to collaborate, share and learn is wonderful.” Laskarina Yiannakaris – graphic designer

“If we work together, we can make a change. In the townships many of us do not know how we are destroying the planet, and we have learned so much of how we can make a change.” Lwandile Godlozu – community artist from Stars of Today

“Coming from a world where art is not an everyday feature, this has been an amazing experience. It’s the first time I have picked up a paintbrush in over 10 years. I have gained insight into how art is not just pictures hanging on walls, but discovering the creativity that is inside all of us; learning that in fact without using these creative mediums there will be no way to disseminate the message that is inside my heart… effective communication is essential. So many vital points of advice have come out of this process… practicing active listening and careful listening has been so helpful.” Lauren Taverner-Smith – PhD student – Sustainability Institute

“I have learned the role that artists can play in this struggle, as before I have never really concerned myself with climate change: it felt so far away form me and from what I do. But this week, seeing how other artists work with these issues, I have seen ways in which I could contribute as an artist. There was so much information, a lot of it, but we had a way of digesting it.” Mlungisi Zondi – dancer – Solilogues Projects

 “I have reflected a lot on what we do on a small scale, in very intimate ways, like drawing or writing or other group activities. This mirrors what happens on the outside world on a global scale. The Climate Fluency Exchange has given us an opportunity to hone in and focus all together, all at the same level; we were able to come to a general understanding on a small scale, and develop a sense of compassion towards these problems, that we can take out with us to another group of people. This week has proven to me the value of the small steps we take, every small moment that we spend, every bit of energy we put into it each part is received by another being and used constructively. What ever we do in this space can spread so deeply, it’s been incredible. Its taken away my fear of expressing my feelings on the specifics of the problems that I feel passionately about, its has been a space where we can explore these feelings, and work on them and carry on with them outside this space. I feel enabled.” Victoria Romburgh – Mtn Science Centre



Hear more from APE and Rhythms Del Mundo