Recently a government body headed by the state minister ordered the culling of Cluster fig trees (Ficus racemosa) along a pilgrimage route in a north Indian state terming them ‘inauspicious.’ When the decision-makers, who neither have scientific understanding about the environment nor have a spiritual connect to nature support such misplaced beliefs which harm nature, it becomes important for concerned citizens to speak up for the environment and also find innovative ways of creating awareness about Ecology and Environment.
With a deep concern for nature, an interest in science communication and innate love for artistic forms, a bunch of individuals have come together to tell the Story of the Fig tree – a key-stone species in the forest ecosystem, using the medium of arts. Learn about the people behind the ‘How to be a fig?’ project.
‘How to be a Fig?’ is the brainchild of artist and naturalist Abhisheka Krishnagopal. Nature and Art have been an inseparable part of Abhisheka’s life from her childhood. With a bachelor degree in Visual Arts from Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath, Bangalore, and nearly 15 years of training in the classical dance form Bharatanatyam, Abhisheka got involved in rescue and rehabilitation of displaced and distressed urban wildlife during her student days and invariably entered the field of wildlife conservation. She went on to pursue her Masters in Ecology and Environment as she wanted to continue in the field of nature conservation. Abhisheka has several years of experience working as a researcher with research institutes like ATREE and BNHS specialising in Wetland Ecology and Bird Migration studies. While she enjoys spending time in the wilderness investigating the wonders of the natural world she is also keen on bringing various art forms – from painting and music to dance, to convey the message of nature conservation. As a Nature-educator Abhisheka uses her experience in wildlife rehabilitation, field ecology, and the medium of art to create environmental awareness in both urban as well as rural communities across the country. Through the project ‘How to be a Fig?’ she brings together scientists, artists, writers and performers to understand and appreciate the importance of the ficus in the ecosystem.
Veena is a contemporary movement artist from India. She is an independent performer and choreographer who has collaborated with individuals from various fields like theatre, visual arts & music. Her choreographic works have been featured in various festivals in many countries. She has a vast experience of working with dance companies like Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company, Sadhana and Angika in the UK as well as India-based dance institutions. She has performed extensively across UK and Europe. She has done her MA in South Asian Dance Studies from Roehampton University, UK and has written several essays and critiques about South Asian Dance. As an educator she has worked with individuals of different ages and abilities. Her latest project named ‘How to be a Fig?’, is in collaboration with Artecology Initiative that brings together ecologists, researchers, performing and visual artists together to explore and communicate through movement the importance and role of fig trees in our eco-system.
Vignesh is a graduate student at the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India His interests include all things ecology or pertaining to the natural world; natural ecosystems, ecological processes and evolution have been the sort of things that fascinate him. For his Ph.D. Vignesh is investigating the mutualism centered around figs and their associated fig wasps. Fig wasps are extremely small and short lived. In order to complete their life-cycles, they manage to locate host trees that are usually a few kilometers apart. He is currently trying to figure out how they overcome this challenge by studying their flight capabilities. Vignesh is also passionate about science-communication and teaching.
Ipsa is a scientist-turned artist. A PhD scholar at Indian Institute of Science, she is interested in science communication and has dabbled in blogging and public speaking for communicating science. Her interest in creating Science-inspired visual art led to the generation of her own venture, Ipsawonders. Ipsa likes to learn and share interestingness. She is also a volunteer for Artecology, a team of individuals from all walks of life interested in bridging the gap between art and ecological sciences. Art and aesthetics make startling conversations about ecological concerns with citizen much easier. Participating in ‘How to be a Fig?’ was an experiment for Ipsa. She is learning to think beyond the literal and to creatively visualize and perform. This experience is dynamically shaping her ways of presenting science through visual arts.
Mike is a UK based freelance writer with a doctorate degree in rainforest ecology; his work focuses on rainforests, climate change, biodiversity and related issues. He has lived in a national park in Borneo, bred endangered penguins, investigated illegal bear farms, produced award-winning journalism and spent several weeks of his life at the annual United Nations climate change negotiations. He is interested in what people think about nature and our place in it. His freelance journalism include works published by The Economist, Nature, The Ecologist and Ensia, and some chapters of Dry: Life without Water (Harvard University Press); Climate Change and the Media (Peter Lang Publishing), and Culture and Climate Change: Narratives (Shed). He is the illustrator of Extraordinary Animals (Greenwood Publishing Group) and maintains a blog called Under the Banyan. In 2016, his book about how fig trees have shaped our world, influenced diverse cultures and can help us restore life in degraded rainforests was published in the UK as Ladders to Heaven and in North America as Gods, Wasps and Stranglers.
Tamara is a sound artist with a bachelor degree in Biology and Physics. Her work ranges from acoustic research and design, performance, installation, sound spatialization, to soundtrack composition, sound design, and djing. Hailing from Nicaragua, Central America, Tamrara has trailed deep into the forests and the swamplands, lakes, rivers, mountains, and volcanoes of every place that she has been able to visit and explore. She feels that nature is where knowledge is; the knowledge of how life works. With an intention to offer rich listening and provide a reference of what the Natural world holds, Tamara has recorded sounds of the wild from remote bioreserves that have no trace of human interaction. With this she intends to reach sectors of society of people who have never been to a beach or to the rainforest, provide schools with this material for kids in remote industrial towns to know how waking up next to a river bed in the jungle sounds like. Tamara has and continues to develop a very strong line of work where science meets art through the medium of sound and through what she calls social art, which involves exploring the world through play. Heart in Nature is a platform on which she conducts environmental awareness work.