Creative Outreach and Communications
While scientific information, field research, facts and figures have their place, they can at times be dry and hard to engage with – and often, unintentionally, leave the general public out of the discussion.
One of the most effective ways of raising awareness for issues, that are sometimes unrelatable and far removed from everyday life, at ground level is through Art and Culture – the use of visual arts, performance arts, music, poetry and stories to connect with audiences and encouraging them to be responsive to our key messages. Bringing the experience of communities in need of help closer to home; making their concerns more relatable and understandable, and more immediate.
Keeping the above in mind, we developed our communications and outreach to be centered around creative outputs related to each of the cultural practices we are working on: On The Move (a travelling photography exhibition) and One Square Meter (a needlefelt sculpture) for mobile pastoralism, and an online photography showcase for traditional fisheries (still in progress).
Think Outside The Box
How can you get your creative communications to become the center piece for wider discussions and engagement?
Include Everyone In The Discussions
Change doesn’t happen if we only speak to our peers / industry, we need to influence and shape the attitudes and perceptions of society by taking a grassroots type of approach to nature and culture, and communications. Let’s include everyone in the discussions.
Celebrate diversity, show people that there are many different ways of living life, of protecting nature, of managing resources.
Celebrate simplicity, moving towards a way of living that is less stressful, less strenuous on the planet, more giving and satisfying.
Going A Long Way
Art and Culture outputs can provide and be adapted into a wide range of communication tools (articles, blog posts, interviews, photographs, videos, illustration, social media campaigns, newsletters etc.) beyond the exhibition itself for continued outreach and building awareness.
On The Move
On The Move is a travelling photography exhibition celebrating the lives, challenges and ecological knowledge of mobile pastoralists in five Mediterranean regions: North Africa, the Middle East, the Iberian Peninsula, Turkey and Greece.
The exhibition began its journey at the Bardo Museum in Tunis (Tunisia), and has since visited 12 cities across the Mediterranean (over a span of 3 years) where it has not only been a special feature at museums (Bardo Musuem – Tunis, Museum of Geneva – Geneva, Averoff Museum -Metsovo, CerModern – Ankara), but helped make the case for Mobile Pastoralism at congresses (IUCN WCC in Hawai’i, COP 22 Marrakech) and government (9e Arrondissement – Paris, Parliament of Extremadura – Spain), and touched the hearts of the public in cultural spaces (Byblos Cultural Center – Byblos, Royal Botanical Gardens – Madrid, Michael Cacoyannis Foundation – Athens).
In addition, WWF organised a small On the Move exhibition as part of the Shepherd Festival in Gasserine. The event, which is a musical festival celebrating shepherds by demonstrating sheep shearing techniques and displaying different sheep breeds saw the participation of 500 people including 50 journalists. It was a huge success despite the dangerous location of the festival.
At each venue audiences have been moved by poignant images of mobile pastoralists and their way of life.
The exhibition has been instrumental in helping us open dialogues with peers, other conservationists and academics, media and educators, and mobile pastoralists themselves who often feel undervalued, unworthy and unimportant. It’s our aim that through celebrations such as On The Move we can start to change perceptions not just for the conservation world but all of society.
One Square Meter
One Square Meter is a needle-felt sculpture made from Merino sheep wool (a breed of sheep used for mobile pastoralism in Spain) highlighting the very tangible link between mobile pastoralism and biodiversity; a visual representation of one our key arguments – that one square meter of land where mobile pastoralism occurs can house up to 40 different species of plants.
The installation launched at On The Move Hawai’I (a special edition of the exhibition shown at IUCN’s World Conservation Congress in 2016) and has since been requested at various important workshops, including WWF Spain’s “Dehesa Viva”, and now graces the Parliament of Extremadura where it is accessible to the public as an iconic landmark.
The response to One Square Meter has been overwhelmingly positive, encouraging growth and expansion of the project itself with possible links to the development of rural economies.
Online Multimedia Exhibition on Traditional Fishing Practices
An online multimedia exhibition on traditional fishing practices that focuses on the lagoon and the practitioners has been created by MedINA – Messolonghi lagoon in Greece and WWF North Africa – Ghar el Melh lagoon in Tunisia. The exhibition hosts pictures, videos and text and is designed to resemble the experience of being in a museum, guiding the visitor through the different rooms.
The exhibition, available online, ensures wide outreach of the main messages of the MCNC and allows a long term presence of the project outputs. It has been designed as a work in progress and it is hoped that it will expand its Mediterranean areas of focus to more lagoons in more countries.
In the framework of the Messolonghi lagoon project on traditional fishing practices, MedINA collaborated with the Athens Ethnographic Film Festival and co-produced an ethnographic film. The film titled “Alima” – a term local fishermen use to mean ‘go fishing in the ivari– provides a contemporary anthropological look on the lifeways of the Messolonghi – Aitoliko ivari ﬁshermen. The film focuses on the one of the ten ivari areas in the Messolonghi lagoon, the ivari of Komma, and documents the daily life of the fishermen, through their labour and their relationship with the lagoon. The filming took place over a year, powered by Olympus corporation and supported by the Management Body of the Messolonghi lagoon.
The film made its première on Saturday 22nd November in the Athens Ethnographic Film Festival (Ethnofest) and was part of a set of films screened under the theme “Man and the Environment”. The film, which provides a visual anthropological record of traditional fishing in the lagoon, was well received by the audience and will serve to raise awareness on the importance and reality of the practice to a diverse audience.
 The ivari practice uses permanent barrier traps to capture ﬁsh during their seasonal or ontogenic oﬀshore migration. In eﬀect, the Ivari are natural ﬁsh farms still largely managed based on traditional knowledge. In the Messolonghi lagoon ten ivari areas can be found, in the same location for over a century, managed by eight local fishing cooperatives.
“Let’s Spend a Day in Ghar el Melh”
A short movie of 6 minutes was created to showcase the different cultural practices of the region. The movie tells the story of a Tunisian ecotourist who comes to Ghar el Melh and travels by bike for a day to discover the variety of practices that benefit nature in Ghar el Melh. This movie was an opportunity to reduce the impact of the sun, sand and beach tourism by showing to the public the diversity of spots that can be visited by tourists such as the traditional farm parcels, the Marabout and the lagoon.
The documentary was shared by 3522 persons and liked by 1.2 thousand followers on Facebook which helped to raise the awareness of public in a crucial period where there was discussion, movements and issues concerning a beach occupation plan and the impact the excess of tourists on the coastal part of Ghar el Melh.
Transhumance – the seasonal movement of herds in search of grazing pastures – is a cultural tradition present in the Mediterranean since a thousands of years. A practice vital for nature conservation and the preservation of cultural heritage through the transfer of traditional ecological knowledge from generation to generation.
Created by the Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos as part of the MCNC’s work on Mobile Pastoralism, this beautiful short video gives a us a small glimpse into the lives of the Vlach – the transhumant shepherds of Northern Pindos, Greece. Through their stories, perceptions and songs, the Vlach take us on a journey from past to present, including a look at the fascinating landscape they call home during the summer months each year.
Filming, editing and texts: Stamos Abatis and Aphroditi Sorotou.