Linzi Lewis: eco-warrior for environmental awareness

linzi-lewis-600Working with the AMbush collective, Linzi Lewis envisions creating beautiful gardens, and functional, meaningful city spaces

Linzi Lewis wears many hats; she describes herself as an urban geographer and ethno-botanist. Fiercely protective of her Mother Earth, she says she is constantly mindful of her relationship between herself and the planet.

It feels natural for her to ride her bicycle 15 km to work every day. This ceremonial cycle is something she believes allows her to be more mindful of the world and is a healthier, more environmentally friendly option.

“I ride my bike for a few reasons. It is where I feel really free. I love riding bicycles and know it’s also possible to do this in Joburg. I believe we need to challenge ourselves, particularly in this society, and challenge the fear we are engrained with growing up here. And not only is it freeing and liberating to do this, it has effects on people who see. It’s all about transforming people’s perceptions, and when they see you riding your bike through the inner city, through Yeoville, etc., they see more possibilities, and hopefully more people will challenge themselves and transform their own behaviours.”

AN INTREPID WORLD TRAVELLER

Also known as Liliana Transplanter, once Lewis matriculated she took a bold move, exploring parts of southern Africa alone and using public transport. This extraordinary experience led her on a journey of trusting in herself and learning to trust others.  It allowed her to “see the places where she lived, properly, to really experience, enjoy, and be humbled by it”.

“It showed me also what I needed to do here, and realised that I could do, and that I had nothing to be afraid of.”

AN ECO-WARRIOR CONQUERING FEAR

Lewis believes South Africans are brought up in fear and this prevents individuals from being free and learning from each other. She is not afraid to be the one to make these changes, so other people can see it’s alright. “I understand this perception, as I come from here, but think people need to open their eyes, and actively step through that fear, so that they can see the magic that is here, in the everyday of this dynamic city and country.”

After her journey she returned to Joburg and began her studies in Environment and Conservation at the University of the Witwatersrand. Lewis won the European Union Erasmus Mundus scholarship, opting to study Sustainable Tropical Forestry in Copenhagen and Montpellier, completing two MSc degrees in Agricultural Science, and Forests and Livelihoods.

The scholarship promotes international learning and cooperation, to improve the quality of education across the world.

While studying Lewis visited and studied the forests of the world.  

Constantly looking for ways where art and science collide Lewis uses arts facilitation techniques for shared learning. Lewis, also a dancer, is a woman of action and works at a grass roots level. In 2011 she galvanised an “AMbush revolution” and formed the AMbush Eco-Art Collective; “A collective of eco-artist-activists, sustainable designers, social change makers, performers, recyclers and ‘evolutionaries’,” she says.

The members of the fledgling organisation were commissioned to be resident artists on the Climate Train, a COP17 initiative. The Conference of the Parties (COP17) is an annual event to discuss responses to climate change. COP17 was held in Durban in 2011 and introduced the Climate Train campaign, travelling across South Africa to bring discussions and education on environmental issues to ordinary citizens.

Working with the AMbush collective Lewis envisions creating beautiful gardens, and functional, meaningful city spaces. “The ideas behind this are to transform space and the perception of space, cleaning ‘forgotten’ wasted spaces into productive and multifunctional ones. It should respond to local socio-spatial interactions, and reflect local diversity”.

“The idea to me of creating more sustainable cities refers directly to how cities use and dispose of resources. The current system is very linear, a very unsustainable design, whereby cities require large inputs, such as food, water etc., to be brought in from elsewhere, with high transportation and environmental costs, consumes it locally, and disposes of it somewhere beyond the cities’ borders. To become more sustainable the life cycle of products needs to be dramatically changed, and needs to create more circular life cycles, producing locally, consuming locally, and ‘disposing’ of or rather, repurposing locally.”

The AMbush approach also involves local people who are a part of the process of redefining. “We use creative techniques to facilitate intercultural and intergenerational dialogue, to co-create a better living and working environment”.

This eco-warrior is inspired by the movement and energy within the city and she believes “Much of traditional knowledge globally is being forgotten, and replaced by Western values; this is a very vulnerable place to be. We need to remind ourselves of traditional knowledge systems in order to be more resilient in a changing world. Diversity creates more resilient systems, therefore more biodiversity and biocultural diversity conservation. If we recognised and celebrated ourselves, our history, and our knowledge, I believe there would be peace amongst each other, providing the ability for an inclusive society, where everyone can participate equally in defining our future.”

Lewis also works with the Khanya-Africa Institute for Community Driven Development.

“We work primarily on the local grassroots levels, ensuring that development is driven by local priorities. This process is empowering, providing people with an opportunity to voice concerns and opinions, and become able to be a part of processes which affect their lives. “

Lewis likes the idea of getting people to realise their abilities and find ways to co-create solutions.

“We have lots of issues and hopefully we will be able to solve them, but it’s up to us.  I believe we have lots to do, and we need to do it together, for that we need to get creative. “