Reflections on decolonial perspectives on climate and culture event

At this Green Tease event, we explored the growing movement within the arts to engage with and address the UK’s colonial history, looking at how this is intimately connected with work on climate change as a neo-colonial issue.

Cultural relationships within a landscape

When we talk about decolonisation and climate change we need to talk about land, the front lines of extractivism. 

“It’s not just about the lost land in and of itself but also about the lost cultural relationships that exist within communities within that landscape, it is a slow industrial genocide”

said Suzanne Dhaliwal and referred to her work in the Boreal Forest in Canada, an area of the size of England and Wales combined that is now a site of extraction: 

“It is a continuation of the genocide of indigenous people. We use art and culture to communicate these issues, but we also use art to understand the cultural heritage that has been lost.”

She encouraged people to use stories to generate solidarity for the people living in front line communities like the Boreal Forest, because by telling their stories, we can bring empathy and fill in the “human voice gap” that some environmental movements can leave out.   

Parvinder Marwaha gave an example of her work on digital programming on the loss of land in times of the climate emergency with a project called Landless, an interactive resource site exploring climate refugees. The resource looks at objects travelling between countries, and so the map serves as a conversation starter about climate refugees.  With the map, you can go back and forth in time and zoom in on specific areas with data-specific information about risks.  

Titilayo Farukuoye, the final speaker of the evening, emphasised that we need to tackle all types of inequalities to tackle climate change – class, capitalism, transphobia – which are all destroying livelihoods. Stepping away from a white supremacist point of view, we need to acknowledge that colonialism is driving climate injustice. The power structures today are built on the right to land, and Titilayo Farukuoye read out a poem called “Draped in Cotton” about how we are all dressed in blood from the cotton and fabric industry.  

They also shared a powerful speech from the Indian historian Vijay Prashad, which speaks to the connections between climate and colonialism. 

Titilayo Farukuoye ended their presentation with a poem based on an Afrofuturist perspective called ‘What do you remember about the earth?’ reflecting upon how it will feel if we do not take care of our shared home: 

“The home that has been a lost love of our lives. What do you remember about her?”

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