Jamaican visual artist Camille Chedda has been selected to join two other international artists for a global collaboration that will address urgent climate change challenges through transformative art for an initiative spanning three cities across the world.
The Global Co-Commission Project, spearheaded by Alserkal Advisory in partnership with the Global Cultural Districts Network, will take place in Kingston, Johannesburg, and Dubai in a shared mission under the direction of independent Toronto-based curator Tairone Bastien to raise awareness and kickstart positive change in local communities.
Chedda, in her presentation, will make artistic intervention and work to creatively upgrade Kingston’s South Camp Park, an abandoned public space that is currently neglected and overrun with overgrown bushes and waste. Representing local non-profit Arts organisation Kingston Creative as part of the multi-national initiative, she will present along with Muhannad Shono from United Arab Emirates and Io Makandal from South Africa.
She said, “It’s truly thrilling to be part of a project that centres on community and explores the intricate relationships between humans and multiple species as interconnected ecosystems and a shared commons.” She also added that she recognises the significant challenges Jamaica faces due to climate change and firmly believes that the project offers unique opportunities to engage urban communities with wild green spaces.
For its inaugural cycle, under the theme ‘A Feral Commons’, the project will explore human and multi-species ecologies and their impact on the environment. Each artist’s exhibitions will be unveiled in their respective cultural districts in winter 2023 as part of the groundbreaking initiative, which is a first of its kind.
Speaking to the project’s aim, Alserkal Initiatives executive director Vilma Jurkute said, “[It] reflects the power of cultural districts to act concertedly in times of global crises. Working with artists across three continents, the Global Co-Commission intends to inspire new narratives of possibility, ultimately creating public art that is both responsible and impactful.”
Chedda, whose visual art practice focuses on land, materiality, and the legacies associated with spaces, plans to heavily incorporate the Antigonon Leptopus plant, more commonly known as ‘rice and peas bush’ locally, as a significant element in her artwork. Despite it being inaccurately considered a weed due to it normally being overgrown in physical spaces that have been neglected, she aims to shed light on the importance of the plant.
She said, “This vine is fast growing and attracts bees… [It] grows all over the island in tufts, creeping along fences and roadways, and are always surrounded by bees. I hope to highlight its importance by using it in the artwork as a represented element [at the location] in the mural, the installation, and for the bees as their main source of food.”
Bees are known as the foremost pollinators that contribute directly to food security and, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a third of the world’s food production. So, to this end, she also plans to establish a community apiary in the space and harness the full potential of the abundant wild bush in order to offer educational and income opportunities.
Transformative power of art
Chedda’s project is sponsored by the Canadian High Commission and is in association with the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) and the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC).
Kingston faces climate departure this year and Mayor Delroy Williams has been working within the municipality and central government to delay the crisis through carbon dioxide mitigation. Speaking to the project, he said, “This art park, along with the Duhaney Park Recreational Grounds and the park upgrade project at Marverley, fit squarely within our agenda, while simultaneously involving art and creating economic activities.”
Local partnering non-governmental organisation Kingston Creative, which directed the city on the path to recently being awarded the ‘World’s Best Creative Destination’ by the jury of this year’s Creative Tourism Awards, has worked for a year and a half to see Chedda’s project come to fruition through the initiative.
Its executive director Andrea Dempster Chung explained, “Her participation in the Global Co-Commission Project allows our cultural hub to make a meaningful contribution to addressing climate change through the transformative power of art. We are thrilled to highlight Kingston’s vibrant creative scene and spark important conversations about environmental sustainability within our community.”
Alserkal Advisory is a visionary arts and culture enterprise based in Dubai dedicated to the cultivation of homegrown initiatives, cultural production, and events that promote creative expressions. Its organising partner, the Global Cultural Districts Network, serves as a dynamic platform, bringing together diverse leaders in culture and urban development to foster exchange, collaboration, and the nurturing of new ideas.