Giant heads sculpted from fruit and vegetables draw attention to rural communities at biodiversity summit

British artists Adam Birtwistle and Silas Birtwistle have created four giant heads sculpted from fruits and vegetables to raise awareness on the impact that climate change is having on smallholder families and rural communities. The foods were sourced from Mexican local markets and each head depicts a ancient mythological god.
British artists Adam Birtwistle and Silas Birtwistle have created four giant heads sculpted from fruits and vegetables to raise awareness on the impact that climate change is having on smallholder families and rural communities. The foods were sourced from Mexican local markets and each head depicts a ancient mythological god.

Cancun, 6 December 2016  Drawing attention to the impact that climate change is having on smallholder farmers and rural communities in developing countries, British artists Adam and Silas Birtwistle unveiled four giant heads – Voices from the Good Earth - sculpted from fruit and vegetables at the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Summit (CBD COP13) in Cancun, Mexico.

Sponsored by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a UN agency that is helping smallholder farmers adapt to climate change impacts, the four heads (displayed in an energy saving glass freezer) were sculpted from locally sourced foods, many of which are essential to the livelihoods of local farmers.

“Many of the foods sourced in the surrounding area and used in these sculptures are under threat from the changing climate here in Mexico,” said artist Silas Birtwistle. “We wanted negotiators at CBD COP13 to see for themselves the beauty of these ingredients and the crucial role they play in the wellbeing of rural communities while giving a voice to the rural communities as represented in our sculptures.”

Although the brothers have worked in many locations around the world creating thought-provoking art installations made from recycled materials, this is the first time they have worked in cooperation with IFAD and in Mexico, using ingredients grown by smallholder farmers.

“Farmers have to work with nature to create a truly sustainable food secure future,” said Margarita Astralaga, Director of IFAD’s Environment and Climate Division. “Working with Silas and Adam, exhibiting these amazing four food heads, we show the very real challenge of climate change and environmental sustainability for smallholder farmers in developing countries.''

IFAD works with smallholders in some of the world’s most remote locations. Many of the foods they grow - whether it is rice in Cambodia, truffles in Morocco or catfish in Vietnam - are threatened by climate and environmental change, putting pressure on local and national food security.

“Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems is real and it's happening every day, exacerbated by climate change,” added Astralaga. “We are seeing increased incidence of droughts, floods, pests, sea level rise, salinization, erratic rainfall, unpredictable seasons, lower yields and topsoil erosion in many of the communities we work in.

“This is coming at a time when, with population growth, we need to be expanding sustainable farming practices and raising yields. IFAD is working hard to help farmers adapt to these climate impacts in an environmentally sustainable way which ensures food security in the long term.''

Despite the challenges many farmers face because of climate change and environmental degradation, Silas Birtwistle says his sculptures are in fact about hope.

“Organisations like IFAD believe that the future lies in environmental sustainability and adaptation and it is working in developing countries worldwide, including Mexico, to offer farmers a voice, and a tangible solution to manage better ecosystems and deal with the changes they are facing.”

IFAD’s investments, including the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP), help farmers in a variety of ways, from installing weather forecast systems, to introducing new drought resistant crop varieties, as well as setting up farmer field schools where knowledge and new climate smart agriculture techniques can be demonstrated and disseminated.

Note to editors:

Margarita Astralaga, Director, Environment and Climate and Adam and Silas Birtwhistle, are available for media interviews.

About the artists

British artist Silas & Adam Birtwistle are being sponsored by IFAD to produce a series of sculptures for the CBD COP13 in Cancun Mexico.

Silas was born in Shaftesbury, Dorset, 1963. He attended Portree High School, Isle of Skye, Scotland. He went on to study for a BA Hons in English/History and an MA in Furniture Design. Started making furniture in 1990’s and soon after began working exclusively with driftwood. He currently lives and works in Somerset, England. 

He has exhibited at:

The London Art Fair

Piano Nobile Fine Paintings

The New Art Centre Sculpture Park

The Metropole Arts Centre

The Henley Art Festival

Oxfordshire County Sculpture Park

Orleans House Gallery

 

 

 

Press release No.: IFAD/77/2016

IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, we have provided about US$18 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached some 462 million people. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized United Nations agency based in Rome – the UN’s food and agriculture hub. For more information visit www.ifad.org