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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.

An East Indian dance company called Sapphire Creations is working to help build awareness about climate change particularly among young people – with world-class choreography, beautiful masks of Hindu gods, and martial arts.

The production, dubbed ‘Ekonama’, shows a community in the throes of climate change, suffering from its consequences and finding ways to adapt.

“When there are no trees left to give shade, and no clean air to breathe, no animals to hunt and no lands to till; when all that is left is barren, gray, parched earth, what do humans live on or live for? What do they believe in and what do they aspire for?” says an advertising text for the show.

In the performance, dancers depict a community struggling in a future world devastated by climate change. They scavenge for food, they fight one another, lives are lost, and even the gods have lost their dignity.

Featuring the folk martial art Chhau from the interior of the Purulia district of West Bengal, ‘Ekonama’ seeks to spur the public to take action to prevent climate change and protect the planet for future generations.  

University Students Take Creative Approach to Climate and Environment

The idea for ‘Ekonama’ came from young people on university campuses across India. The show is based off the ‘Microsoft Create to Inspire’ 2015 Fellowship program in Kolkata, a campaign that offered youth from 18-25 years old the chance to organize art projects, from street plays to poetry and films, on environmental issues affecting the city, including improper disposal of solid and e-waste.

Sapphire Creations Dance Company also ran a campaign called ‘Ekosense’ during the months leading up to the ‘Ekonama’ premiere, aimed at increasing public awareness about climate change.

All of the costumes are made from discarded fabrics, collected from suburban garment industries. The costume designer, Debaditya Das Barman, hand-knitted these waste fabrics into chunky cocoons and layers of deconstructed wraps and masks worn by the dancers.

India Amongst Countries Most Impacted by Climate Change

The real world backdrop to the art project is serious: India is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, from unprecedented heat-waves and drought to more intense extreme weather events and rising sea levels. Because India is so close to the equator, it is more likely to experience dramatic sea level rise, putting millions of people living in its densely populated coastal cities such as Kolkata and Mumbai at risk.

Meeting the goals of the landmark Paris Climate Change Agreement, which aims to limit global temperature rise to as close as possible to 1.5 degrees Celsius, will require increased action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At the upcoming Climate Change Conference in Bonn, hosted by Fiji (COP23, 6-17 November), countries will work towards implementing the Paris Agreement. This makes Paramita Saha, the co-director of Sapphire Creations Dance Company and one of the ‘Ekonama’ dancers and designers, hopeful that timely action can be taken.

“I hope the Climate Change Conference in Bonn COP 23 can bring an agreement between governments of the world that we need to unite for change beyond politics and differences. There is just no other way. One and all we need to take action and NOW,” she says.

‘Ekonama’ has just gone global - last week was its international premiere at the Seattle International Dance Festival, and producers are looking forward to more performances around the world soon.

To learn more about Sapphire Creations, click here.

Watch a video on Microsoft Create to Inspire in Kolkata here.

#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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