Artist depicts destruction in Serengeti


Georgia Papageorge has traveled a long spiritual journey over the years, documenting nature’s wonders in art form.

Her solo exhibition, The Sherpard Principle, on show at the I-Towers in the Gaborone CBD, recently revealed her deep sense of conservation and how her defiance against those who try to suppress her silent voice of advocacy.

The elderly artist told Arts&Culture that her work instigated awareness. “I am not political. I just love nature but I produce the kind of art that will make people aware of the destruction that might be taking place around them.

This has earned me a ban in some African countries where some greedy people have paved the way for the destruction of some of Africa’s important heritage site to line their pockets,” she said.

Papageorge has been holding this kind of exhibition in Tanzania but has since moved to Botswana because she no longer felt welcome in the East African country for expressing her displeasure at the government’s decision to ignore calls to save the Serengeti nature conservation area where a big highway connecting the country with it eastern neighbors has been constructed.

In December 2013, Papageorge wrote a strongly worded letter to president Jakaya Kikwete expressing her displeasure at his government’s decision to give the green light to such a project despite its impact on nature and the lives if the tribal people inhabiting the area. “Your time is now, however, history will one day judge you for the decisions you make right now. Tanzania remains the jewel of Africa that has been endowed with the most remarkable natural gifts in terms of wildlife, scenery, the greatest mountain in Africa and many unique volcanic craters. So you are the caretaker of these precious gifts and the lives of a diverse tribal population. I say this in seriousness because this is no small claim to make,” the letter read in part.

Papageorge’s art pieces illustrated how the road, marked in red, cuts through the Serengeti and how the establishment of a soda ash plant will displace some Flame Birds from Lake Natron, their breeding place.

Papageorge, after climbing mount Kilimanjaro four times have aerially photographed and painted the scenery revealing the unique of Tanzanian beauty. Her mixed media drawings and painting have been placed in major collections in Africa and overseas.

In 2011, three of her large Kilimanjaro Coldfire works were acquired by a British Museum.

In her letter to Kikwete, Papageorge claims she visited the Musoma are where the Serengeti highway started and met people who spoke in whispers. “Fear ruled the atmosphere and the word China was never enunciated. Your name was not mentioned but it was ever present somehow. Your Tanzanian people are afraid of you. I wanted to create a professional image of the Southern Cross Star constellation with different religious or ethnic groups living there but this could not evolve in an atmosphere ruled by fear,” she said.

The 75-year-old artist expressed through her art and spoken word, her anger at African leaders who have given China a free role to take away raw materials from Africa.

 “There is no consideration for people living in those areas, how this affects them and so forth. I use the red colors in my pieces to emphasise how the Chinese red dragon is coming to sweep everything out,” she said.

In May 2012, Papageorge with the help of her son, created an image of Southern Cross Constellation upon the surface of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans in Botswana.

Papageorge commended Botswana’s efforts in nature and heritage conservation, saying other African leaders should follow president Khama’s example of leading such initiatives. “Completing the Southern Cross Constellation at Makgadikgadi was a big achievement for me and I have to say while I had my doubts about the cordon fence disturbing the free movement of animals, it helped us set a straight line. It is no longer a problem because it fell down and there are no plans to re-erect it,” she said.

While she fears going back to Tanzania, Papageorge is adamant she will continue to sensitise the world about the destructions taking place in the Serengeti area and other heritage sites around Africa through art. “My art fightsthe injustices against nature and humanity. I hope at the end people will not put money ahead of everything,” she said.

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