MRG and partners announced as winners of prestigious Wellcome Trust Hub award
Minority Rights Group (MRG) and partners in the Land Body Ecologies Research Group (LBE) have won the Wellcome Trust’s renowned Hub Award. The grant provides a dynamic research space in the Wellcome Collection building in central London, where people with different expertise can collaborate on projects exploring health, life and art.
An initiative led by award-winning interactive arts studio Invisible Flock, LBE is a global interdisciplinary network exploring the relationship between mental health and ecosystem health. It includes MRG along with the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program, a Kenya-based non-governmental organisation that promotes the recognition and identity of Ogiek culture; Quicksand, an interdisciplinary design research and innovation consultancy based in India; Waria, a cooperative of freelancers and project workers in the fields of culture and media; Dr Ayesha Ahmad, Senior Lecturer in Global Health at St George’s University of London; Sheila Ghelani, an independent and collaborative artist; and Dr Outi Autti, an Adjunct Professor in Arctic Architecture and Environmental Adaptation at the University of Oulu, Finland.
LBE will undertake a two-year research project that brings together a team of human rights activists, mental health researchers, scientists, and artists to research the phenomenon of solastalgia. A developing field in global health, solastalgia is defined as the emotional or existential suffering caused by environmental change, or commonly described as “the feeling of homesickness while you are still at home.” Through the lens of solastalgia, the team aims to understand the lived experiences of land trauma on marginalised and indigenous communities.
The project will be led by communities at the forefront of environmental and land rights issues, such as the Ogiek in Kenya, the Sámi in Finland, the Batwa in Uganda, the Pgak’yau (Karen) in Northern Thailand, and communities living in the buffer zones of the Bannerghatta National park in India. To ensure the research is anchored within the communities, LBE will bring to life a live network of hubs in Northern Europe, Kenya, Uganda and India that will support the incorporation of local knowledge, perspectives and lived experiences in the research.
Samrawit Gougsa, Communications Officer at Minority Rights Group International (MRG) says:
‘Indigenous and minority communities are the least culpable in the climate crisis, yet they are suffering profoundly from the ongoing destruction to their homes and ecosystems. As communities living far from sites of power where decisions affecting their lands and environments are made, their voices are continuously disregarded. A prime example of this is the current global call to turn 30% of the world’s surface into ‘protected areas’ by 2030, which will displace hundreds of millions of indigenous peoples and traditional landowners. Why aren’t the communities who will face the repercussions of this target being meaningfully consulted? Our project will reverse this trend of exclusion, centring the communities’ lived experiences and amplifying their voices for the world to hear.’
Victoria Pratt, Artist and Creative Director of Invisible Flock says:
‘Our project is growing from within communities and with people, rather than for or about them. With around half of the world’s languages having no written form, art can act as a vehicle to bring forward alternative modes of expression not limited to human speech. Our approach is to tell multiple global stories at once, with the hope that through this process of entanglement, solutions, answers, and meanings are collectively conjured in the act of listening and retelling. Perhaps through this we can reach multiple solutions, a thousand threads of connection that we didn’t know existed.’
Daniel Kobei, Executive Director of the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program (OPDP) says:
‘Our community is intertwined with the lands because it links us to our ancestors and enhances our spirituality. The delay in returning our lands is having a negative impact on both the community and the environment, as unabated destruction of Mau forest is ongoing. This project comes at an important time because we are suffering by constant attempts to break our connection to our home.’
The Land Body Ecologies Research Group is the fourth collaborative residency group in Wellcome Collection’s Hub since 2014. The project will commence in October 2021.
For more information visit www.landbodyecologies.com.
For media queries please contact the MRG Press Office.
Note to editors
- The Land Body Ecologies Research Group (LBE) works to explore the relationship between mental health and ecosystem health. It is a global interdisciplinary network seeking to understand and engage with the lived experiences of land trauma affecting marginalised and indigenous communities.
- Minority Rights Group (MRG) is the leading international human rights organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples. It works with more than 150 partners in over 50 countries.
- Invisible Flock is an award-winning interactive arts studio based at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park operating at the intersection of art and technology. Through their artist-led practice they create highly sensory installations and environments that ask us to renegotiate our emotional relationship to the natural world. They are an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation and recipients of the grant.
- The Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program is a non-governmental organization based in Kenya that promotes the recognition and identity of Ogiek culture. It was formed by Ogiek elders, opinion leaders and professionals after long historical injustices that deprived the Ogiek community of their rights.
- Quicksand is an interdisciplinary design research and innovation consultancy based in India. Their work is driven by an approach that seeks to build on a rich, evocative understanding of people and environments, into meaningful opportunities.
- Waria is a cooperative of freelancers and project workers in the fields of culture and media. A creative team of professionals consisting of visual artists, graphic designers, educators and curators, providing high quality content and education services to businesses and the public sector.
- Dr Ayesha Ahmad is a Senior Lecturer in Global Health at St George’s University of London, with a PH in Medical Ethics, specialising in conflict related trauma, transcultural psychiatry and gender-based violence in humanitarian settings.
- Sheila Ghelani works as both an independent and collaborative artist, having made research-led performance work, place-responsive live art, moving image works, and social art projects engaging participants across age and background, in the UK and internationally for over 25 years.
- Dr Outi Autti is an Adjunct Professor in Arctic Architecture and Environmental Adaptation at the University of Oulu, Finland.
Photo: Stephen Kotioko stands in Mau Forest, Kenya. Credit: Jason Taylor.
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