By Gabriel Olawale 

In 2019, the African Development Bank stated that “the textile and fashion industry is a key contributor to global warming, accounting for 10% of global carbon emissions. This makes the industry the second largest industrial polluter after the oil and gas industry.” 

The AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, Josefa Sacko, has also stated that Africa is the continent most severely affected by global climate issues even though it makes the least contribution to climate change.

Sacko says that, “If proper reaction mechanisms are not put in place, up to 118 million impoverished people in Africa are expected to be exposed to droughts, floods, and high heat by 2030, the greatest threat will be to those who have the least ability to withstand and adapt to the effects of climate change.”

Despite the profound repercussions of climate change on human rights and social justice, climate justice remains one of the least understood and socialised policy themes in contemporary African development.

Pan-African social agency, Crtve DEVELOPMENT (CD), is tackling this with the launch of the WE!ARE movement aimed at building a pan-African voice on climate justice ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Summit (COP 27).

The campaign offers young Africans an opportunity to speak their minds, lead the conversation, and share their solutions towards changing the narrative on climate change in Africa.

Speaking ahead of COP 27, slated for November 2022, Founder and CEO of Crtve DEVELOPMENT, Dr. Okito Wedi, said that through the WE!ARE campaign, the agency will harness the power of art and creativity to change the narrative on climate change and development in Africa while also bridge the gap between communities who will most be affected and policymakers who will determine our climate future.

“Crtve DEVELOPMENT (CD) champions change on the African continent through storytelling and campaigning on key issues. They harness the power of art, technology, journalism, and research to advocate for African-owned and-led development that bridges the gap between people and policies.

“Climate justice is still one of the least understood and socialized policy concerns in modern African development, despite the severe effects of climate change on human rights and social justice. The WE!ARE movement aims to empower young people across the continent to use creative outlets to express their demands for climate justice and the Africa they want to see.

She explained that Crtve DEVELOPMENT, in collaboration with Africa No Filter, issued a call-out for creative involvement in WE!ARE displays that will resemble climate justice in the framework of “The Africa We Want To See” in order to emphasize the significance of climate justice in Africa.

“Creative Hubs in participating nations were also invited to apply for grants to create pop-up displays and creative installations, as well as to carry out three workshops that will use art and creativity as a tool for social change in local communities. Five hubs were selected and they are supported with in-person training and a grant of $10,000 to curate a pop-up showcase that will facilitate public engagement and participation ahead of COP 27.

In Nigeria, two hubs were selected. 

The Assembly, founded by Yoanna Chikezie, is an open innovation organisation dedicated to empowering entrepreneurs and creatives from Africa and its diaspora to succeed in the global fashion industry. The pop-up concept is a futuristic scenario of a climate-battered and hyper-modern Lagos in the year 2050. Both pop-ups within the showcase will feature a startup collective made up of five homegrown heritage and digital fashion brands. The brands specialize in creating innovatively designed garments with ancestral Nigerian textiles – Aṣọ Òkè, Àdìre and Rafia, 3D garments, textiles, models, and environments with technological innovations and recycled plastic fashion accessories. Drawing from the past and leveraging the present to influence the future, The Assembly will curate a travelling ‘phy-gital’ showcase staged in at the Ikeja City Mall and Dustbin Estate in Ajegunle, Lagos.

The second Nigerian hub Footprints of David Arts Foundation was founded in 2005 by Seun Awobajo. The hub is an all-inclusive theatre and community development project in the Bariga community. Their showcase will feature a creative hub for rural and slum dwellers. It will include a live and digital photo exhibition in public spaces in Lagos, community performances in public areas and reusable art installations such as Christmas trees with waste PET bottles.

Daai Deng is a moving market that gives space to established and up-and-coming artists to feature their work alongside entrepreneurs to exhibit and sell their work. In their WE!ARE showcase, Daai Deng aims to highlight the blessing and “curse” of water using art and creativity to dissect and interrogate climate justice within a South African context. The hub’s founder Allison-Claire Hoskins explained that the showcase theme: Water No Get Enemy is “inspired by the great Fela Kuti song.” With water and sanitation listed in the sustainable development goals, the showcase will feature sites in South Africa that have been affected by flooding and water shortages, including Bishop Lavis, Khayelitsha and Durban.

A hub was also selected in the COP 27 host nation, Egypt. Perform Arts provides a training and educational service for performance arts. Their showcase will focus on Alexandria Sea pollution and shoreline disappearance, 

consisting of a photography exhibition in Citadel of Qaitbay in Alexandria, Egypt. Music and singing will be integrated with storytelling to introduce the environmental impact on human life.

The WE!ARE campaign runs from Earth Day 2022 – Earth Day 2023. In order to promote a high-level display and pledge between African youth and the attending policymakers, WE!ARE aspires to participate in the curating of the first-ever COP Youth Lounge in the Blue Zone. Policymakers will receive the Africa We Want to See publication, which contains the demands for climate justice made by 2000 WE!ARE African climate activists. Delegates will also see a showreel of the seminars, showcases, and Sail-to-Sharm project.

In Africa, the movement is supported by both up-and-coming and seasoned artists, politicians, designers, musicians, and community organizers. Together, the WE!ARE movement’s champions and backers will reshape the narrative surrounding climate justice and put pressing political concerns at the forefront for their various communities and countries in the run-up to COP27 and beyond.

The WE!ARE movement is giving young Africans an opportunity to speak their minds, lead the conversation, and share their solutions on their terms. To get involved, visit www.africabywe.org or join the conversation on social media platforms using the hashtag #AfricaByWe

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