Environmental Artist – Naziha Mestaoui

When the scope of environmental leaders was broadened to include artists, I took full advantage of it. I have always found art that is used to speak out for important issues to be particularly fascinating. In my search for environmental artists I came across Naziha Mestaoui, a Belgian artist and architect with an interest in indigenous peoples’ connection to nature and the conservation of it. Growing up, she always had a love for nature. As a child, she would often have injured animals in her house that she would take care of. She also formed bonds with the Huni Kuin people as well as connecting with the cultures of other indigenous people, such as those in the Amazon. The Amazon people are mentioned on page 138 of Bigelow and Swinehart’s textbook. They talk about how forests are so important to Earth’s health and cutting them down contributes to global climate change just as much as greenhouse gas emissions do. Mestaoui recognized how important these forests are and, with her education in architecture and art, decided to start 1 Heart 1 Tree. In 2015 in Paris, she created something extraordinary. People were able to connect to an app that reads their heartbeat by pressing their finger on the screen. It then connects to a tree projected onto a building or monument that pulses with the person’s heartbeat, creating a beautiful metaphor of how we are all connected. This virtual forest spanned hundreds of kilometers. This was not only an aesthetic project, but because so many people participated and paid for these virtual trees, about 100,000 real trees were planted in places such as Brazil, Peru, and Kenya. Mestoui spent the rest of her life helping out communities of indigenous people. Unfortunately, she passed away in April of 2020 due to a rare health condition. I had never heard of this project until I started to research for this assignment and I’m so glad I found it. I just love how people were able to connect to a tree with their heartbeat. It must’ve been a life-changing feeling of seeing a virtual tree pulse with your own heart beat. In that moment, I probably would’ve felt really connected with nature, even if the tree was just a projection and not a real one.

I searched google for some pictures. Here are some examples of what Paris looked like:

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