Cairo International Biennale of Contemporary Art | 13th Session | EYES EAST BOUND

Invited to participate for Cyprus, Melina Nicolaides, Director of ACTIVATE presented a film at the Egyptian Museum of Modern Art produced for the Biennale:

2019, 45mins

For more information about the Cairo Biennale and the theme of the exhibtion →

This film is a tribute to all of the exceptional people working on the ground, or within academia and scientific institutions who are dedicated to finding nature-inspired and creative solutions to the critical environmental challenges faced by the Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa. These solutions will safeguard the future well-being of the lives of the people, and restore and regenerate the landscapes of this region—ensuring the air quality, water reliability, food security, and the stability of our climate and of our ecosystems. These individuals uniquely embody the connective potential of “our East” — a place which hosts a world of possibility and holds the answers to the world’s problems with solutions that go beyond sustainability and into resilience.

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The region of the Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has been identified as a climate change “hot spot” and faces more accelerated environmental challenges—and extreme predictions for the future—than any other part of the world. With some of the most severe desertification trends on the planet, it is the first region of the world expected to remain without water and to face warming temperatures that will likely exceed global rates by twenty-five percent. The effects of a changing climate are already being felt on a daily basis, through enhanced heatwaves, extreme water-related weather events, and deteriorating air quality.

As biodiversity and the balance of ecosystems from the wetlands of the Eastern Mediterranean to the Sahara Desert become increasingly disrupted by human activity, so will the water supply, energy production, and food resources of all the communities across this region become endangered. The future security of these three sectors depends on finding the right solutions to our growing and interconnected challenges. These challenges need interconnected solutions. And there ARE solutions. Solutions that go beyond sustainability. Today, this region, this ‘East’ of ours, is a world of possibility—an area still rooted in tradition, but overflowing with creative ideas and emerging ecological innovations, that hold the answers to the world’s problems.

EVERYONE HERE IS CONNECTED is not about the enormity or the complexity of the challenges we face. It is an acknowledgement of those truly genuine and exceptional individuals throughout our region who are working on the ground in the ‘culture of the earth’, or within academia and scientific institutions, to bring these possibilities to all of us. Some were born here, and others were not, some work to survive, some research to find new answers. But they all work with the same home-grown and mindful dedication to making a difference, and to ensuring the future well-being of the lives of the people of this region; to restore its over-extended resources, to grow nutrient-dense food, to repair the natural function of our environmental systems and reverse desertification. And all of these individuals are in some way connected in real life.

The first section of this film presents a mosaic of people, some of their thoughts and practices, transmitting what they know and sharing what they seek. It is of course just a glimpse of this network of learning and experience, but this is a personal tribute to all of the people that embody our connective potential, as they look towards our region not just as a place worth preserving, but as the source of nature-based solutions, green energy ideas, and regenerative practices, with the inspiration to build a cleaner, brighter future as an example to the rest of the world.

These individuals bring attention to and share their knowledge on some of the key issues that need to be addressed in our region and the links between our water, energy, and food systems. A central theme within our shared regional challenges is the need for us to restore our degraded landscapes that have been deteriorated by conventional agricultural practices, causing erosion of soil, deforestation, overuse of water—in this way gradually turning our fertile earth to arid desert land.

Our collective objective can be to restore the Mediterranean and MENA region, and to go beyond sustainability by creating resilient systems that link the connections between all of our issues from soil quality to biodiversity in the natural environment. Our efforts must focus on regenerating all of our living systems—with practices such as rainwater harvesting, rebuilding soil organic matter—so that we can rehabilitate our damaged ecosystems, and even bring life back to the desert. By embracing Regenerative Agriculture (also known as the methods of Restoration Agriculture, Agro-ecology, Biomimicry), or the principles of ‘Permaculture’, an ecological design process based around the laws of nature—all of which draw both from the knowledge of traditional culture and new nature-based innovations—we can recreate the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems and eventually change the direction of our planet’s future.

But real transformation can only be achieved as a regional community. So we do need to learn from each other as quickly as possible—as this must be the ‘heritage’ of our future, one that we build together. In this way we can definitively ensure thriving, secure and happier lives for the people across our region, along with clean air and water, healthy food, and the stability of our climate and our ecosystems.

The second half of this film focuses on a transformative example of ecological restoration from Cyprus, Atsas Organic Farm, run by a farmer practicing regenerative dryland agro-ecology and transitioning an arid, rocky, degraded landscape with no topsoil and with very limited resources of water into a diverse and productive agricultural ecosystem that is resilient, abundant, and goes beyond sustainable; while also actively reversing the effects of climate change.

Melina Nicolaides

ACTIVATE Nonprofit Arts Organization

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Some screenshots from the film | click to enlarge images

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Film Production Credits


Climate Adaptation and Regional Impacts
Prof. Dr. Manfred Lange, Director Future Earth MENA Regional Center
Hakan Djuma, Researcher, Soil and Water Conservation, EEWRC
Katerina Charalambous, Researcher, Sustainable Urban Water Management, EEWRC
Panicos Hadjinicolaou, Regional Climate & atmospheric modeling EEWRC

Green Technology and Renewable Energy
Savvas Hadjixenofontos, Electronics Engineer, Inventor Renewable Energy Solutions
Dr. Hanan Albuflasa, Assistant Professor of Renewable Energy, University of Bahrain

Regenerative Agriculture, Environmental Restoration
and Resilient Food Systems
HRH Princess Basma bint Ali of Jordan, Royal Botanic Garden
Neal Spackman, Permaculture-based Agro-ecologist, Al Baydha Project, Saudi Arabia
Rhamis Kent, Permaculture-based Regenerative Whole Systems Designer
Nicolas Netien, Atsas Organic Farm, Agro-ecologist
Sami Juma Al-Mandeel, Bahrain Line Aquaponics Center
Dr. Ahmed Ibrahim Imam, Marsa Matrouh, Desert Research Center, Egypt
Dr. Salah A. Soliman, Center for Sustainable Development, Bibliotheca Alexandrina
Mr. Maged El Said, Habiba Organic Farm, Nuweiba, South Sinai, Egypt
Ray Van Mourik, Casa Araucaria Aquaponics Farm
Rita Khawand, SOILS Permaculture Association Lebanon
Gabriel Pantelis, Ierokipio Permaculture Designed Land & Training Center
Dafnis Pangides, Agricultural advisor and economist

Concept, Production, Art Direction: ACTIVATE nonprofit arts organization
Final Editing: Leonidas Savvides

Images and footage produced by ACTIVATE
except those provided courtesy of:
HRH Princess Basma bint Ali at “Future of Olive Oil” , Aristoleo Conference 2018
“Beyond Organic, Beyond Extra Virgin” Aristoleo Conference 2019
Scenes from RBG Film “About the Royal Botanic Garden of Jordan”
Rita Khawand, Composting in Saidoun, South Lebanon
Rhamis Kent, Permaculture Composting in Wadi Hadhramaut, Yemen
Eco-friendly Pest Control: the Bracon Hebetor Wasp, Desert Research Center
Solar Cooking footage, Savvas Hadjixenofontos

Melina Nicolaides is Permaculture Design certified, is a member of the Advisory Board of the Future Earth MENA Regional Center and serves on the Steering Committee for the E.U. Interreg MED Program ‘Aristoil’. At present, she also serves on the Steering Committee for the upcoming regional scientific conference “Water in the MENA Region: Preparing for a Changing World” that will be hosted by the University of Bahrain in February 2020. In collaboration with the University, she is also currently working to develop a series of partner events and public projects for 2019-2020 that will serve to broaden the mission and scope of this conference. The Program “A Year of Water” in Bahrain launched in July of 2019.

This film was produced for ‘Eyes East Bound’ Cairo Biennale 2019 as a tribute to all the individuals working in our region dedicated to ensuring that our future generations have a secure, healthy and thriving life.


The Cyprus Participation
at the Cairo Biennale
was partially sponsored by the
Ministry of Education & Culture
Republic of Cyprus

Many thanks to the Fine Arts Sector
of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture
for the generous manner in which
they hosted this event

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Banner image: Entrance of the Museum of Modern Art - Cairo