17 May 2022
By Mary Bermingham
Dancers, artists, and film makers, are collaborating to explore the essential rights of trees in a project called The Voice of the Trees. The collaboration will culminate in a public event on Saturday next, May 21st at the MTU Crawford College of Art and Design on Grand Parade. All are welcome to engage in the exhibition and attend the live performance later that day.
In 2020 an audit of trees was carried out by Maria Young of Green Spaces for Health in Cork’s South parish. The audit found that Cork’s trees, while providing vital ecological services to residents, are under serious threat due to property developers and ironically by greenway planners. Deciding a creative response was needed to raise awareness, Maria teamed up with the Creativity & Change programme at MTU and New Moon Dance Company.
Maria Young says that a creative response is valuable, rather than just presenting facts because “it is a very powerful act. It taps into something deep within us: The desire to admire the quiet beauty of trees and the need to protect that which is alive.”
Since then, over 80 people have since participated in creative workshops to explore their connection to nature and the need to protect our trees. This engagement has led to the development of a film, dance, and art exhibition that brings to life ideas about the rights of trees in Cork City and globally.
The concept of Human Rights is commonly known and accepted by all, as is the concept of animal rights. But what of the rights of other non-animal living beings? Across the world, countries such as New Zealand, India, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Panama have already given “rights of personhood”1 over to elements of nature.
When India legally recognized the rights of nature last month, Justice S. Srimathy said: “The past generations have handed over ‘Mother Earth’ to us in its pristine glory and we are morally bound to hand over the same Mother Earth to the next generation.”
As the next generation, young activists in the New Moon Dance Company have expressed their concern about the rights of trees, particularly in the context of climate change. The company’s choreographer, Tina Horan, says “The essence of the work is to raise awareness regarding how important nature is. Without trees , without this beautiful heavenly earth, seas and skies and forests, there would be no us.” The dancers will be performing as part of the Voice of the Trees project.
All three components of the project are being showcased Saturday May 21st at the MTU Crawford College of Art and Design, Grand parade. The film and exhibition can be viewed in the gallery space from 10:00-5:00. The dance will take place at 4:30pm.
The project is in part funded by the support of Irish Aid.