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This article is the latest in our series #Art4Climate, a joint initiative by the UNFCCC secretariat and Julie’s Bicycle on the work of artists who make the issue of climate change more accessible and understandable by featuring it in their work. It was inspired by a session at the Salzburg Global Seminar in early 2017.

Every year in Southeastern Zimbabwe, members of an agriculture based community known as the Ndau gather for an arts festival to celebrate their indigenous culture and promote the preservation of the environment.

At the Ndau Festival of the Arts, people of all ages participate in theatre, poetry, song and dance, film shows, literary works, and educational workshops aimed at promoting and preserving the Ndau way of life.

The Ndau people are known for their sound environmental practices, and rely on a healthy environment for their livelihoods.

Founder and chairman of the Ndau Festival, Phillip Kusasa, launched the event to bring attention to the importance of Ndau culture and to campaign for environmental conservation and a stable climate.

“If everyone takes responsibility, be it through awareness workshops and educational seminars in schools, tertiary institutions and/or in rural communities, I am confident that there will be a change of behavior and attitudes of the ordinary citizens in many countries who may behave irresponsibly because of lack of knowledge on climate change,” Phillip said.

To the Ndau people, environmental protection is deeply entrenched within their spiritual beliefs. At the festival, they engage in dances to celebrate the spirits of the forest and the mermaid (who in their culture, controls their weather patterns) to promote food and water security.

The Ndau rely on healthy forests to provide them with fruits, mushrooms, and herbs, healthy rivers to bathe, fish and swim, and healthy rainfall patterns to maintain their agricultural yields.

But in recent years, the Ndau have witnessed increasing drought in the region, and they fear the effects of climate change on their socioeconomic wellbeing and health.  

Increasing drought threatens their ability to farm, their main source of livelihood. If agricultural yields decline below a certain level, the Ndau men will be forced to leave to neighboring countries to seek employment, disrupting families and creating the potential for the spread of new diseases into their communities.

Drought also threatens the Ndau people’s water security. If their wells dry up, many families will be forced to travel further distances to find water, oftentimes pulling their kids out of school to pitch in.

The Ndau fear that the effects of climate change may one day force them to move away from their homes and their community. The home is sacred in Ndau culture, and fleeing represents a threat to their traditional knowledge systems.

Phillip Kusasa believes that leaders need to do more to help citizens of countries like Zimbabwe address climate change.

“All member states that affiliate to the Paris Agreement should mainstream climate change in their developmental goals so that the message can reach every global citizen to save the world from the disastrous results of climate change. Every signatory should not hesitate to put the agenda on climate change in their fiscal policy and budget which would strategically prioritize climate change as a major international concern,” he said.

Education is an important component of the festival. The event features workshops provided by government ministries to give sessions to educate the public on climate change.

The festival also includes a youth led program on green culture called the ‘Young Green Culture Guilds’, in which youth are trained in Ndau indigenous culture, environmental conservation, and creative art. Young people get the chance to travel to environmentally important areas where they learn tree planting and how to raise tree nurseries.

“Children should understand the impacts of climate change,” Phillip said. “Training youth in climate change issues helps to build a generation well informed about current developmental trends and challenges that can cripple their potentials in the future. We feel the children own the future so they should be shaped into responsible citizens whose future begins today and with them. Training them in climate change arts can empower them and they will also share the same skills with their counter-parts.”

The upcoming Ndau Festival of the Arts will take place on 23 September, 2017.

#Art4Climate is a joint initiative by the UNFCCC and Julie’s Bicycle to spot and propose super recent and new works in this broad field, but we also want to hear from you! Please send any proposals for showcasing to newsroom@unfccc.int or Chiara@juliesbicycle.com.
Please amplify our web posts with Twitter hashtag #Art4Climate and #COP23!

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