Look: More than 1,000 'bees' form eye-catching artwork at Expo City Dubai

Origami artist Leonie Bradley says 1,400 origami bees 'soar' in a display of collective creativity by day five of COP28


Nandini Sircar

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Photos: M.Sajjad/Khaleej Times
Photos: M.Sajjad/Khaleej Times

Published: Wed 6 Dec 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 6 Dec 2023, 10:04 PM

In the heart of the Green Zone in COP28 lies a unique art installation in yellow, showcasing a swarm of hand-crafted origami bees.

Over 500 people have already commit to preserving the environment at this installation by Day 5 of the climate conference, driven by a shared passion.

The atmosphere around this interactive artwork, titled SWARM, ‘buzzes’ with a determination to save the environment, as each visitor is encouraged to craft their own miniature origami bee and then write their pledge to nature.

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These crafted pledges are then incorporated into the existing sculpture, symbolising how the collective action of many hands can make a positive change.

Speaking to Khaleej Times on Tuesday, origami artist Leonie Bradley said, “This is made from hundreds of origami bees that are representative. There is a game that we play with children which is called ‘Fortune Teller’. The idea is that we are holding our children’s future in our hands and we must make the right choices.”

Leonie Bradley. Photo by Nandini
Leonie Bradley. Photo by Nandini

Lasting home at Expo City

This collective artwork will later find a lasting home at Expo City within the Terra pavilion once the climate conference concludes.

“We folded around 900 origami bees and the public have added another 500 by day five and they are going to keep adding,” said the artist, who is a member of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, UK.

Talking about her inspiration, Bradley said that in 2018, when she served as the resident artisan at the University of Bristol, she collaborated with the university’s laboratory that focused on investigating the effects of neonicotinoids pesticide on the circadian rhythm of bumble bees.

“They found that the pesticides impact their body clock and make them forage at the wrong times of the day, at night times when pollen and nectar counts are low. That’s because plants also have a body clock as do human beings.”

“So, I wanted to communicate this complicated science to people and also find a playful way to address the climate crisis. Science has a lot of answers but we need a culture change and that’s much harder,” she added.

The artist who is visiting Dubai from London highlights that when people take a moment to fold one of the fortune tellers (origami) they crafted it transports them to a different mental space.

It prompts people to pause, reflect, and engage in conversations about complex scientific topics.

“The idea is that it empowers people so that the next time they go buy a plant from a garden centre or a shop, that question of whether it has been grown with pesticides occurs to them. It starts a conversation that raises awareness.”

Bradley worked on the installation for six weeks, had the wireframe constructed before she arrived, and folded the bees with a team here. “So, for the last week, we've been folding and adding these to the sculpture,” said the artist who is representing Bee The Change campaign – a global movement to safeguard bees, aiming to be a global coalition to help all pollinators.

The campaign is part of the recently announced Trillion Bees coalition, a science-led initiative aiming to mobilise more than two billion people and raise $1 billion in funds to support projects that preserve bees, protect habitats, and foster biodiversity.

Pledge station

People visiting the art installation at the site promise to honour and protect the environment.

Pens in hand, they approach the pledge station, where volunteers guide them through the process, offering encouragement and smiles.

Each signature is a personal vow, with heartfelt messages pledging to reduce carbon footprint, to plant trees, or to advocate for sustainable practices.

Malaysia expat in Dubai, Karmen Long, said, “I came here to find out more about climate change and I do have an interest but I’ve never really had the time. Since I live in Dubai I thought it would be a good idea to visit COP28. This installation was the first thing that caught my eye because it’s very creative and it’s about the environment, nature, the creatures, whether animals or insects, that inhabit our planet.”

Karmen Long
Karmen Long

Long has been a vegetarian for the past decade due to her strong concern and commitment to climate change issues, making this subject particularly significant to her.

“I support the environment to be a cleaner and greener place. So, these things actually attract me. I pledge to stop using Single Cups for Coffee.”

UAE national Nouf Almail said, “Mine (pledge) was to increase personal sustainability initiatives and plant more trees. When we were walking through that gate, we started wondering what this installation was here and then we came and discovered this. It’s a wonderful initiative.”

A visitor from Scotland, Arabella Ogilvie, highlights her pledge remains rooted in the ongoing effort she already put forth.

“I have written a pledge today to be a responsible citizen in whatever shape or form that might take -- I pledge to be a responsible citizen. It’s something that I try and do anyway, but I think goals don't have to necessarily be new. They can be maintaining something that you strive for anyway. To care about nature isn't a one-time thing. It's something we want to do all the time. That's why I pledge to be mindful of nature and to keep being responsible,” she said.


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