Using art as a revolutionary tool
On October 10, the BeeHive Collective gave a presentation at the Mother Earth Climate Justice Symposium about one of their narrative posters titled “The True Cost of Coal.” The extremly detailed piece discusses the issue of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia and took ten people, three and a half years to create. The intricate and rich story presented captured the attention of all those who viewed it.
The BeeHive Collective is an all-volunteer, activist art collective that dedicates itself to translating first-hand stories into images that reflect complex global issues. The art pieces are made by a team of anonymous contributors are then used for educational purposes and as organizing tools. Among some of the other art pieces they have created are a trilogy of phenomenal and intricate narrative posters about corporate globalization and grassroots resistance in the Americas.
Some of the themes the BeeHive Collective’s presentation touched on were consumerism, colonization, protecting water rights, and grassroots activism. However, the focus was on first-hand stories from the Appalachian indigenous groups and their experiences with mountaintop removal coal mining. The poster represents a timeline about how they have been affected by coal mining and colonization, and what changes they hope to see in the future.
One of the interesting aspects of the art presented by the BeeHive Collective was that it is meant to be accessible to any person, regardless of their background or their level of knowledge. This is why their art features woodland creature animals instead of humans, so any given viewer can focus on the subject matter and issues instead of making judgments about the portrayals of individuals. People then are able to connect with the art and see themselves within the narrative because there are no representative barriers. Their art is meant to resonate across cultures and indigenous groups, even when the stories they are based on are from a particular region.
The BeeHive Collective’s presentation also included performances from a member of the Toronto based hip-hop group Test Their Logik. Their group uses hip-hop to deliver messages relating to social and environmental justice to inspire political action, and they are currently working on their third album. One of the pieces showcased during the presentation addressed Canada 150, which Test Their Logik was able to perform in Toronto during the Canada Day celebrations; infusing a critical analysis to what was being celebrated.
Both Test Their Logik and the Beehive Collective give a voice through their art to prominent issues today, from water rights and environmental issues to the problems that indigenous communities face. It is high time that these issues are discussed, and what better or more engaging way to start than with art.