Linking digital artists to the planet

Mai Ghandour, Tuesday 6 Sep 2022

For global climate enthusiasts and digital artists, the ClimaTech Run 2022 is a platform to link art and passion with the planet while simultaneously inciting climate action in the run-up to the COP27, writes Mai Ghandour

Linking digital artists to the planet
Linking digital artists to the planet


Egypt’s Ministry of International Cooperation in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, among other stakeholders from the private sector, international development organisations, and the entrepreneurial community, have announced the launch of the ClimaTech Run 2022.

The ClimaTech Run is a multi-stage programme for tech entrepreneurs and digital artists who share a collective passion for sustainability and technology. The winners will present their work at the COP27 at Sharm El-Sheikh in November.

The competition has two tracks that harness both the power of technology and art: the first track is for global tech entrepreneurs (the ICT for Climate Action Track) and the second track is for digital artists (DigitalArt4Climate). The ClimaTech Run extends for one month until 22 September through global live events and webinars.

“There is a role for all of us in climate action. The youth are especially fundamental in finding new, innovative solutions… and this is an opportunity for the youth to transform proposals into tangible projects,” Rania Al-Mashat, the minister of international cooperation, said.

Zooming in on the second track, artists and visual storytellers of all ages, especially young creatives, are required to curate art pieces that articulate feelings, ideas, and visions related to climate change as a source of hope for climate action.

Mohamed Meatemed Eissawi, coordinator of the ClimaTech Run, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the technical concept behind the competition lies in the pivotal role technology plays in building a connection with the Earth. 

“We are trying to grab people’s attention and shift their focus through tech art to present issues that affect our daily lives. We are trying to connect technical concepts with environmental issues by connecting culture, technology, and the environment to raise awareness on climate change,” he said.

The competition is focusing on technology, harnessing the idea of digital art from digital paintings and drawings to 3D modeling, photo manipulation, digital collages and photography. These forms of artistic projects are becoming more widespread than traditional art, Eissawi explained.

The art track is co-designed with and implemented by the UN Population Fund (UNPFA) and the International Association for the Advancement of Innovative Approaches to Global Challenges (IAAI Glotcha).

“The power of digital art fast-tracks and amplifies any topic as it starts going digitally,” Nadine Ghaffar, founder and curator of Art d’Egypte, told the Weekly, explaining that for every 500,000 people visiting exhibitions physically, over one billion visit, see, or participate online.

Digital art is one of several ways of future cultural expressions, Ghaffar said. “This is where the world is heading, but this does not mean that all the different forms of cultural expressions like on canvas, sculptures, oil paintings, and physical elements will be obsolete.”

Public voting for the curated art pieces will take place from 25 September to 5 October. The competition’s finalists will be selected by a team of curators and judges coordinated by the IAAI GloCha DigitalArt4Climate consortium. The overall winner will be granted a prize of US$100,000, in addition to US$50,000 for African entrepreneurs.

The COP27 will be a great platform for different forms of cultural expressions, Ghaffar said, pointing out that those involved would be interested to participate in ClimaTech’s digital art track to meet likeminded people from around the world.

DigitalArt4Work uses blockchain technology to transform how disparate communities communicate and trust each other through permissionless, distributed-ledger technology. “Our generation has been blessed by the conspicuous opportunity to impact our world with the transformational power of art and blockchain technology together,” Irina Karagyuar, a DigitalArt4Climate partner, said.

“Seeing the global climate change storm building up creates a lot of uncertainty, anxiety and a sense of hopelessness. If we combine the transformative power of culture with the transformative power of technology, we can build a movement of global angels that care for the common good and who care for Mother Earth,” DigitalArt4Climate founder Miroslav Polzer said.

During the COP26 competition, dubbed “Humanity challenged by Climate Change” and exhibited in Glasgow in 2021, a 10-year-old digital artist diagnosed with autism won fourth place. In first place, filmmaker Souki Belghiti portrayed the washed-up shores of Morocco in his short film No Noah for the Next Flood. 

“There will be no Noah to save us from the next flood —this is the expression of my deep sadness at the ongoing ecological catastrophe and a love song for our world,” he captioned his video.

Last year’s artwork featured in the art competition represented a growing movement within the non-fungible token (NFT) community to use art to inspire change and bolster the fight against the climate crisis. It aimed to promote the creative economy that covers activities such as advertising, architecture, arts and crafts, design, fashion, film, video, photography, music, the performing arts, publishing, research and development, software, computer games, electronic publishing, TV and radio, NFT and crypto art.

NFTs still do not have a large target audience in Egypt, Ghaffar emphasised, yet the younger generation is interested. “We are part of a global economy, so in one way or another, we are bound to jump on that [NFTs] boat as well.”

On the other hand, Timmy Mowafi, founder and managing partner of NFTYArabia, said that on a surface level NFTs have a bad reputation when it comes to climate change due to popular blockchains such as Bitcoin and Ethereum using huge amounts of energy. 

However, this trend is slowly diminishing, and there are plenty of other proof-of-stake, cheaper-to-mint-on blockchains developed to be far more environmentally conscious, and these will reduce carbon emissions.

Mowafi said that some blockchain technology has already offset its entire carbon footprint. 

Carbon offsetting has become a healthy trend in the NFT space, whereby an art collection, chain, or marketplace will ensure to offset its environmental affects with carbon credits, registering an equivalent positive impact on the environment through partnerships with relevant charitable organisations fighting climate change.

Mowafi said that he believed that NFTs will eventually take over industries in every country that relies on any sort of digital infrastructure, including in Egypt. 

*A version of this article appears in print in the 8 September, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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