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Wangari Maathai: Africa's Gift to the World

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Abstract:

In 1982, one of Germany's most important postwar artists, Joseph Beuys, proposed the planting of 7000 oak trees as 'a sculpture referring to peoples' life and their everyday work'. Beuys's 7000 Oaks is one of the most celebrated artworks in the history of the avant-garde, but did it achieve what it aimed for? How much tree planting has occurred in the world as a result of this work, except for ceremonial 'planting' in the cities of New York, Sydney and Oslo? If this work has not become 'a regenerative activity', as Beuys himself wanted in 'peoples' life [and] their everyday work', should not it be considered a failure? Is this not the fate of all art, as measured against the dynamics of everyday creativity? While Beuys's work has remained contained in the Museum, Wangari Maathai's tree planting, first begun seven years earlier in Kenya in 1976, has become a global movement and millions of trees have since been planted - and are still being planted every day - all over the world. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her extraordinary achievement.

Keywords: 7000 Oaks; Joseph Beuys; Kenya; Maathai; Nobel Peace Prize; Rasheed Araeen; Wangari; tree planting

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09528820903189293

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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