Many Hands Project

Posted on 20.08.2018

A project that encourages a personal relationship with the environment

Written by Under Her Eye fellow Yasmine Akim

‘Many Hands’ is a project, that encourages people to make environmental pledges, to coincide with hand portraits that are taken on location in a mini photo booth. Our workshop began at the ‘Under Her Eye’ conference, which was held at The British Library this past June in collaboration with Flow Associates. Layla Hendow and Natalie Lee joined me on the fellowship as a part of the young curators programme with Invisible Dust. I was over the moon when they asked me to be the photographer for the social art project…

We enjoyed interviewing people at the conference and taking their photographs, it was a great way to get to know the audience and we made some good connections. We found that working with families and young children in particular was the most effective, as they were more inquisitive about the whole process. In terms of the development of this drop-in art workshop, we would like to work with young people who are not aware of climate change and its complexities. By using an interactive yet educational format we will continue to introduce young children to eco-friendly perspectives, that we hope can change lives and family dynamics even if in a small way.

Excitingly – Invisible Dust invited us to be a part of ‘Encounters’ at Whitby Library (North Yorkshire) this summer. This project ‘explored the scientific and artistic impacts of James Cook’s first Pacific voyage and the shared histories of encounter between Cook and the Peoples of the Pacific.’ The event included Exhibition artworks by Ahilapalapa Rands who created the ‘The Oceanic Reading Room’ and ‘Plant Hunting’ by Fiona MacDonald: Feral Practice. I found my involvement to be very important. James Cook is often celebrated without regard to the colonial impact that his ‘legacy’ has had on indigenous people. By dissecting our national heritage and bringing marginalized voices into the picture we get to see the complexities of power dynamics in the western world – which can be illustrated though art and storytelling.

Although this topic was hard for me to deal with, for suspicions of being tokenized – I feel an obligation as a WOC activist to put myself in challenging situations, especially if I am given a platform to be critical towards the emotional aspects of white supremacy and mainstream education for children of all ages. It was a great opportunity to contribute towards the much-needed discussions that are happening within heritage-based institutions, about marginalized voices.

I enjoyed contributing towards this festival by exploring alternative perspectives about British History with children and families. ‘Many Hands’ was a thought provoking workshop as it allowed children, their families and us to think about the bigger picture. Us humans and animals share the same world; this project is a way of connecting everyone to that simple fact. For me, thinking about nature as personal, as well as a right for us all was a very meaningful activity; the children were very passionate about how joyful nature made them feel, small things – like going to the beach or enjoying a long walk, I felt as if it was quite beautiful that they wanted kids from London to have the same connection that they had with nature.

It is quite overwhelming to comprehend how the historical impact of colonization has changed the natural world so greatly. Many Hands inspires agency and self-direction within the individual, this project in a small way is attempting to redress the balance. We were considering how nature makes us feel and how we all have a place that needs to be appreciated. It is clear that the natural world is something that we all deserve to experience with gratitude, and I feel as if encouraging compassionate attitudes and to introduce an alternative to mainstream education is really important. It is quite rare for children to be asked questions, we should be learning from younger generations more by giving them a platform to express themselves. We have recently found out that funding has been approved for us to create a photo book with that we have gathered so far, which is fantastic news.

We want to continue to explore the personal impact of climate change, and stimulate hope towards climate justice by taking small steps towards more of a sustainable way of life. In the future, we plan on continuing our work with children and focusing on different backgrounds on an international scale.

Sources: (2018). Encounters | Invisible Dust. [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 Jul. 2018].

YouTube. (2018). Being Māori in the 21st Century. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 Aug. 2018]. (2018). First voyage of James Cook. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 Aug. 2018].

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