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‘1821 meets 2021’ in Greek revolution-themed Melbourne photoshoot

Women Of Africa

## Alana UN + New York Times
# African Women Key to Ambitious, but Unfunded, Global Energy Shift
By: Alana Chloe Esposito | March 9, 2016


Credit: George Xourafas


A young woman prepares a meal to cook over an open fire in Jozani, a village on the Tanzanian island of Unguja.

UNITED NATIONS (WOMENSENEWS)—”Sustainable energy for all.”

That mantra now reverberates through the halls of most institutions, whether public or private, concerned with reducing global poverty, protecting the environment and empowering women.

It’s a theme that puts African women at the center of global environmental objectives. As such, it takes up the work of longstanding grassroots activism like the Green Belt Movement, the Kenyan environmental organization founded decades ago by the late Wangari Matthai, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

A global showcase of the theme will be the 60th session of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, a 10-day gathering starting here March 14 that can be counted on to bring thousands of women’s rights activists from around the world.

Each year the meeting has a priority theme and this year it’s the link between women’s empowerment and sustainable development.

The New York-based World Energy Forum is joining the chorus. Each year this privately funded group, formed in 2008, hosts a big conference on how best to improve energy access, increase the share of energy from renewable sources and reduce inefficiency. The forum has declared 2016 the “year of the women” and says it will be launching programs in cooperation with the U.N. and other partners to demonstrate these ideas and foster women’s global access to energy management roles as well as clean energy sources.

In the face of existential threats to the planet by global temperature increases, Harold Oh, president of the World Energy Forum, says the planet is on the brink of a major transformation of energy practices.

At a press conference in January at U.N. headquarters, hosted by the African Union Observer Mission, Oh compared the emergence of a new energy “paradigm” to the industrial revolution, “which totally altered life as it was known for those who reaped the benefits.”

But the industrial revolution also left out large swathes of the population and introduced practices –burning coal and charcoal and animal waste–that contribute to global warming and have become unsustainable.

New Paradigm

Women are key to the new energy paradigm, which is needed for human survival, Oh says.

But who pays for this paradigm shift is unclear.

A development funding conference in Dubai in July last year, a year when the price of oil was falling fast on world markets, failed to produce any legally binding mechanism to create flows of finance for development.

The U.N.’s latest global antipoverty plan spells out 17 interdependent targets, all of which interact with 169 sub-targets. This holistic plan is called the Sustainable Development Goals and any effort to improve women’s access to modern energy source would be clearly central to it.

However, planners of the SDGs say they would require annual expenditures of between $2 trillion and $3 trillion. Governments and philanthropies pledged a large sum of money–$25 billion—to launch the SDGs last year, but that’s far less than what is said to be needed.

If current trends continue, half of all Africans will still lack access to energy by 2050, which is the target year for universal access under the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ada Okika is executive director of UNESCO’s Center for Global Education, a network of schools, corporations and private individuals working to support UNESCO’s mission to “create learning societies with educational opportunities for all populations.”

Okika says an adequate global response to climate change means bringing more women into development policymaking, fast.

“By the end of this year we must make sure that cultural attitudes no longer inhibit [women’s] full participation in development policy, and in particular energy,” Okika said at the World Energy Forum event.

Blocked Path

Traditional gender roles in sub-Saharan Africa hold women responsible for cooking and procuring water and fuel and carrying out most of the subsistence and small-scale commercial farming. Not only do these activities yield little-to-no income, they block the path to education that could lead to financial independence. They also rob time from just about everything else: studying, working, resting, caring for children.

They also damage women’s health and the surrounding environment. Biomass-fueled stoves, for instance, pollute the air with toxins, which can lead to respiratory infections and lung cancer, killing up to four million women per year.

Venturing into remote areas for wood or water can also expose women to sexual predators, especially in conflict zones.

For billions of women around the globe access to modern energy would change all this. It would mean attaining such things as artificial light; safe cooking methods; transportation; telecommunications; and the Internet.

By some estimates 20 percent of the global population does not have access to modern energy sources. If you count people with at least some access to electricity, but not cooking facilities fueled by a modern source, that figure can approach 40 percent of all people on the planet.

Those kinds of statistics mean 3 billion people, the majority in sub-Saharan Africa, are forced to burn coal, charcoal, wood and animal waste for cooking and heating.


Alana Chloe Esposito
Alana Chloe Esposito is an independent writer interested in international humanitarian and human rights law, development and cultural diplomacy. She is the U.N. correspondent for Women’s eNews.

Orange Vest News-women

# Performance Art Project #OrangeVest Sends SOS for Refugees

January 11, 2016 by Alana Chloe Esposito

orangevest Brooklyn Bridge Georgia Lale

By now though, shootings, U.S. electoral theatrics, and international climate change negotiations have eclipsed that humanitarian crisis in the news cycle and most people give it little thought as they go about their daily lives.

One person who thinks about it constantly is Georgia Lale, a 26-year old artist from Greece who is in the second year of the MFA program at The School of Visual Arts in New York. In October she launched #OrangeVest, a performance art project designed to raise awareness about the refugees’ plight.

The performance constitutes Georgia walking silently through public places around New York dressed in black, a gesture of mourning the nearly 4,000 refugees who have drowned in the Mediterranean, and wearing an orange life vest symbolizing their hope for the future. By raising eyebrows, she aims to disrupt the complacency with which most New Yorkers regard the refugees, not only from Syria, but also from other war-torn countries, who risked their lives for a chance to live in safety. If passersby engage her in conversation, she answers their questions, otherwise she remains silent.

“To me, the life vests refugees wear as they cross the Aegean have become visually synonymous with the refugees themselves,” Georgia explains. “The vests symbolize their hope for a future free from death and destruction. I wear them around New York against the backdrop of iconic landmarks to reinforce the idea that this is a global humanitarian crisis.”

The first four iterations of #OrangeVest took place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in Times Square, on The High Line, and across the Brooklyn Bridge. Sometimes she performs alone, other times people join her, and she is always followed by photographer who documents the performance for her social media campaign. I joined Georgia for one of these performances, and spoke to her about the origins, intention, and reaction of #OrangeVest.

#orangevest Georgia Lale
#orangevest Georgia Lale
#orangevest Georgia Lale
#orangevest Georgia Lale
#orangevest Georgia Lale
#orangevest Georgia Lale

What is the purpose of #OrangeVest?

My goal is to raise awareness about the refugee crisis. That’s why I perform in public, not in an exhibition space. Even though Greece in particular and Europe more generally bears the brunt of the burden in accommodating refugees, this is a global humanitarian issue and we have a collective responsibility to help.

Do you think your message is getting through to people?

I think the power of #OrangeVest emanates from our silence. We walk peacefully, we don’t hold signs, or chant, or even speak unless spoken to. Our message might not be clear at first, but I hope that even if people do not understand what we are doing, the image of us in our life vests will stick with them, even subconsciously. Perhaps later they will see something in the news that triggers an understanding. I don’t want to force this issue on people, I am simply present, there to represent the refugees if and when people are ready to engage with the issue.

But most people seem to ignore you. As I followed you from the main entrance of Grand Central up Lexington Avenue to 46th Street, and across to First Avenue, I counted only 11 people who looked at your group, and of those most just gave a passing glance. Even as you walked back and forth in front of the UN and lingered to be photographed near the entrance dotted with tourists and diplomats you didn’t command nearly as much attention as I would have expected. Does that frustrate you?

It’s true, I am practically invisible in my bright orange vest. Each time I’ve done this performance, almost everyone ignores me. It is normal to ignore what makes us uncomfortable. But making people uncomfortable is the point because the sensation gets their attention when little else can. Even if they do not acknowledge my presence, they might later ask themselves why they felt uncomfortable. In this way, art can be more effective at conveying a message than a news report since we have become desensitized to images and statistics of tragedy.

Also, it is important to note that the live performances are just part of the project. The social media aspect is equally important. As my Facebook friends share my posts about the project, I gain more and more followers and people engage me in conversation that way as well. One Greek-American lady from Boston encouraged me to bring the performance there, which I might do. On social media, the message is more obvious because I often share news reports in conjunction with my photos.

How did this project come about?

I am from Greece, which is struggling to cope with the hundreds of thousands of refugees pouring in at a time of great social duress owing to the economic crisis. For many months I’ve been following the news from Greece and am touched by the many acts of kindness and generosity toward the refugees from ordinary people who have very little themselves. I wanted to do my part too. Initially, I thought about going to volunteer on Lesbos last summer, but flights were prohibitively expensive.

In any case, I realized there is power in art too. I’m surprised how few artists around the world are directly responding to the crisis. I think it’s because we feel too disconnected, especially outside of Greece. I wanted to do something because even if artists are understandably absorbed in their own projects, the art world should be informed about the rest of the world.

So the project primarily targets other artists?

Not necessarily, it targets everybody. It is just that I live in a community of artists, so I tend to see things through that lens.

#orangevest Georgia Lale

Who are the other people involved?

I conceived this by myself and performed the first iteration alone. After that, some friends and acquaintances who saw it online started asking if they could participate. Four joined me at the High Line, fifteen at the Brooklyn Bridge, and five at the U.N.. I wanted to perform alone at Times Square.

So far it is mostly other artists who want to participate, and mostly women, which I think has to do with the fact that women are more in tune with our bodies and therefore less reluctant to making ourselves feel vulnerable.

Collectively, the participants represent a wide range of nationalities, which I like because it reinforces the need for a global response to the crisis.

The other person involved is George Xourafas, a Greek photographer who recently moved to New York. We met shortly after I launched the project in October. He was interested in it and agreed to photograph all subsequent performances. He has a background in fine art photography as well as photojournalism and takes beautiful pictures.

Have you thought about putting out a call to the general public to participate?

Yes, I was thinking about that, but I have a few concerns. One is safety. The other is I don’t want anything to compromise the integrity of my art. If a performer starts shouting or in any way acts contrary to the tone I try to set, it will ruin the piece. So I have to trust the people who participate. If a stranger approaches me about it, I ask to meet over coffee to get to know them first. It has only happened once.

Is it the most overtly political art you have produced?

I’ve always felt a responsibility to give voice to vulnerable people. My work generally centers on social, economic, and humanitarian issues. It often deals with the human body – how it functions within and relates to different social and economic architecture. All my work stems from my personal experiences. This is no different because I relate to these people through my family’s experience.

By that you are referring to the 1922 population exchange between Greece and Turkey, which had disastrous humanitarian consequences for all involved. Tell me about that.

Yes, my ancestors were from Anatolia. Following the birth of modern-day Turkey in 1921, Greeks who had been living there for centuries were forcibly relocated to Greece. My great-grandparents left with nothing. My grandfather, who was five years old at the time, remembers eating dirt to stave off hunger. One of his siblings was born on the docks as the family was waiting to board the boat that would ferry them to Greece. It was practically the same route that many refugees are taking now. And, like today’s refugees, when my family arrived in Greece they faced discrimination and social exclusion because they were considered “Turks.”

To what extent were you thinking about your own family history when you designed this project?

I hadn’t noticed the parallels between their experience and the current situation when I conceived the performance. I grew up hearing these stories from my grandfather so I guess they were always in the back of my mind. But I wasn’t really thinking about them until my mom told me that in the photos of my first performance of #OrangeVest at the Met I looked a lot like my great-grandmother. My family’s stories have been on my mind ever since.

Speaking of that first performance, why did you choose to do it at the Met?

Much of their [antiquities] collection was amassed in the 19th century under illegal or quasi-legal terms. Like today’s refugees, the art is stuck far from home.

So the fact that it is a celebrated art museum was less a factor in your choice than the fact that it is a repository for artifacts from around the world?

Exactly. And, on another level, my trajectory from the Assyrian galleries [which includes art from what is now Syria] to the Greek galleries was symbolic. Not only was I tracing the migration route, but I was walking between representations of two countries in the midst of distinct but connected crises.

I’d visited these galleries before, but that day I responded to the art more emotionally and the experience was more intense. I was struggling to discern my own identity while also trying to identify with the refugees. I saw the Assyrian pieces through the lens of a culture on its way to extinction. In the Greek galleries I found myself asking the art for help, help for the refugees, help to understand other cultures, how it feels to be lonely, lost and and alienated by language barriers and discrimination.

Photos by George Xourafas





## OrangeVest on New York City’s Streets for Refugee Crisis Awareness

written by Gregory Pappas November 13, 2015
#OrangeVest on New York City’s Streets for Refugee Crisis Awareness
One Greek artist in New York City wants to help raise awareness about the refugee crisis in Europe and particularly, bring public attention to the struggle of thousands of refugees who are arriving in Europe and those dying off the coasts of Greek islands.

Georgia Lale, a masters degree student at the School of Visual Arts in New York City has taken to New York City’s streets and iconic landmarks where thousands of residents and tourists gather, wearing a bright orange life vest— like the ones the refugees wear when crossing from Turkey to Greek islands like Lesvos and Kos.

She’s named the campaign #OrangeVest and is using the hashtag across various social media platforms to connect online communities to her campaign.

She’s also using her Twitter account to share her experiences.

Lale is in New York City studying on a scholarship by the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation and felt helpless watching the continuous news of so many people drowning while trying to reach Europe.

“My main goal is to bring awareness about this phenomenon, interact with the public and engage with New York City communities about this crisis,” Lale told The Pappas Post.

She wants to grow the movement and create a bigger social engagement to attract the public’s interest about the struggle that the refugees are going through in Europe.

So far she’s walked numerous streets and visited landmarks like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Highline in Chelsea and Times Square, where curious onlookers gazed and stared at the group of women walking around in bright orange life vests.

This Sunday, Lale and her team plan to cross the Brooklyn Bridge wearing the vests. She’s looking for supporters to join her and make the quiet demonstration larger and more visible. (Contact Georgia Lale by visiting the contact page of her website here).

Photos by George Xourafas



Γιατί μια ελληνίδα καλλιτέχνης κυκλοφορεί με ένα πορτοκαλί σωσίβιο στους δρόμους της Νέας Υόρκης; | HuffPost Greece

One of my very old first interviews by Palmos and Mrs Larentzaki that also published my biography honouring me between other notable Greek Artists in her book – Georgios Xourafas Palmos Interview Read more…

People Magazine Greece – Proto Thema National Issue Newspaper

Photoshooting with Greek Actor Efstratios Tzortzoglou in New York