Artist encourages students to think about environmental impact

By Emma Russell
Student Life Editor

On Wednesday, Sept. 15 at 4:30 p.m., the Kohl Gallery hosted its first in-person event since students returned to campus, a Climate Change workshop with artist Monica Jahan Bose outside the Daniel Z. Gibson Center for the Arts.

On Aug. 31 Kohl Gallery opened up an exhibit featuring Bose’s work titled RENEW.

According to the Kohl Gallery, Bose “has been working at the intersection of art, climate change, women’s issues, and racial justice for years.”

Director and Curator for Kohl Gallery and Lecturer in Studio Art Tara Gladden said that Bose currently resides in Washington, D.C. and is a Bangladeshi-American artist, activist, mother, lawyer, and adjunct professorial lecturer at American University.

“I started thinking about having an entire academic year devoted to artists working at the intersection of ecology and the environment. I had known about Monica Jahan Bose’s work for quite some time and have followed her for years, and when my thoughts pivoted to a season like this, she automatically came to mind,” Gladden said.

Gladden was drawn to Bose’s work because of  “the work she’s doing around climate change, the work she’s doing with communities in Washington D.C. and her ancestral village in Bangladesh advocating, educating, and inspiring people to think more about their role in climate change and also how climate change is truly a global issue.”

The Climate Pledge workshop is part of Bose’s ongoing art project “Storytelling with Saris.”

“‘Storytelling with Saris’ is a multi-layered collaborative art and advocacy project that uses woodblock prints on saris, writing, oral history, performance, and film to empower communities in the U.S. [and Europe] to address climate justice in solidarity with the women of Katakhali Village, an island community in Bangladesh on the front lines of climate change…The long-term project highlights and documents the Katakhali women’s personal stories as inspiration for others to act,” according to the “Storytelling with Saris” official website.

“I wanted to use the sari because it was a pre-colonial thing. It existed for millennia and I wanted to use it. I had a lot of western art critics tell me that I shouldn’t use the sari, that it couldn’t be contemporary art… and I really felt like I wanted to use a material that predated colonialism,” Bose said.

According to Bose, saris are a traditional garment worn by South Asian women and are constantly passed down and reused, and recycled into things such as curtains, blankets, or even baby diapers, until the material is no longer usable.

“It’s very universal, it’s just a piece of fabric. A sari is literally just six yards of unstitched fabric. They’re also very ecological, they’re never thrown away… they’re literally passed on from generation to generation. When they wear out and become really thin, you recycle them. They literally live on forever,” Bose said.

Students attending the event were encouraged to make a climate pledge and write it on the sari.

Sophomore Emma Poole said her climate pledge was “to eat less meat and eat more local foods when possible.”

“I took an intro to environmental science class last year and we learned a lot about how eating non-local foods increases your carbon footprint and how bad it is for the environment. I’m in a position where I can [eat more local foods], especially living here, so I’m going to do whatever I can to do that,” Poole said.

Bose said she would later translate the climate pledges into Bengali and “take the sari back to Bangladesh and show it to the women there. They consider it like a letter exchange, they’re like ‘oh, the Americans wrote a letter to us.’ They really enjoy it.”

“This sari has already been touched by thirteen women in Bangladesh and … it’s gonna be touched by all of you,” Bose said.

For students who missed the event and want to make a climate pledge of their own, the sari will be located in Kohl Gallery until the RENEW exhibit closes on Oct. 1.

Photos by Izze Rios

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