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ASEAN youth showcase biodiversity through art

Cambodian artist Seng Roatha’s project The Heaven for Biodiversity, Virachey National Park is featured in the 3D exhibition. PHOTO SUPPLIED
Cambodian artist Seng Roatha’s project The Heaven for Biodiversity, Virachey National Park is featured in the 3D exhibition. PHOTO SUPPLIED

ASEAN youth showcase biodiversity through art

In a remarkable fusion of art and conservation, a three-dimensional online exhibition has been launched, showcasing the works of 20 emerging and gifted artists from ASEAN member states.

These artists were hand-selected by the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) to participate in the Young ASEAN Storytellers (YAS) subprogramme, a component of the ACB-EU ASEAN Youth Biodiversity Programme (AYBP).

The virtual exhibition stands as a testament to the creative prowess and dedication of the region’s youth in preserving its natural and cultural heritage. The works of these gifted artisans were recently displayed at the ASEAN Biodiversity Heroes (ABH) Forum in the Philippine capital Manila.

Hailing from varied backgrounds, the artists utilised an extensive array of media and tools, such as photography, film, painting, weaving, audio tracks, podcasts, long-form narratives, poetry and visual performances, to narrate stories about ASEAN Heritage Parks. These parks are protected areas designated due to their high conservation importance, collectively preserving a complete spectrum of representative ecosystems across the ASEAN region.

Marcial Amaro – assistant secretary of Policy, Planning, and Foreign-Assisted and Special Projects at the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources as well as director of the Biodiversity Management Bureau – expressed his appreciation for the artists present.

“You have powerful platforms that can raise awareness and change the course of action of various audiences to safeguard nature,” Amaro noted, highlighting the significant influence conservation stories hold in promoting the natural and cultural heritage of their region.

Theresa Mundita Lim, executive director of the ACB, highlighted the pivotal role of ASEAN youth in fostering a resilient and sustainable future, noting that those aged 15 to 35 make up more than 33 per cent of the region’s population.

These empowered young people use their voices and platforms to advocate for environmental protection. We aim to encourage communicators, storytellers, content creators, journalists and creative writers to help send the message that everyone can become biodiversity champions,” she said.

Among the showcased talents was notable Cambodian artist Seng Roatha, known as Rotha. His project, The Heaven for Biodiversity, Virachey National Park, exemplified the power of art in conveying ecological messages and captivated the audience. Rotha’s work beautifully represents the park’s rich flora and fauna, advocating for its protection.

“Covering an expansive 332,500ha, [the site] is one of two national parks designated as ASEAN Heritage Parks. It was registered in 1993, followed by the then Phnom Bokor National Park in 2003,” shared Rotha.

Regarding his video documentary, he said biodiversity signifies the immense variety of all life on Earth.

“It’s a short word, but it embodies a vast concept, representing thousands of diverse habitats across the world, millions of different species, and trillions of unique characteristics at various locations on the planet,” he explained

Upon entering the multi-dimensional exhibition, visitors are welcomed by an introductory display that sets the stage for an enlightening journey. Concise profiles of all 20 young ASEAN artists are available, each a testament to the region’s creative talent.

As visitors delve deeper, they encounter diverse works and have the opportunity to watch insightful videos from each artist, adding depth and context to their creations. The exhibition concludes with informational sections on the ACB and a heartfelt “special thanks”, all providing visitors with a profound appreciation for ASEAN’s rich biodiversity and the artists championing its cause.

Through his participation in the ABH forum, Rotha offers a global audience a chance to appreciate Cambodia’s natural beauty and understand the urgency of preserving it for future generations.

Celine Murillo, a YAS representative from the Philippines, found the exhibition to be an enriching experience to share unique stories and interact with other participants.

“From the oceans to the mountains, from fungi to megafauna, our lives depend on biodiversity. We are not separate from nature, and it is important to advocate for it because that means advocating for our own survival. This is why I encourage future communicators to promote and mainstream biodiversity,” Murillo remarked.

She also expressed hope that the ACB would further utilise this group of amazing creatives to amplify the biodiversity agenda of the region.

For a closer look at the virtual 3D exhibit, visit stories.aseanbiodiversity.org.


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