In 2020 I was invited to collaborate with Arboretum Detroit to paint a commemorative mural of the tree-planting superhero and environmental activist Wangari Maathai. The mural was installed over the summer in the arboretum's beautiful tree Nursery located on the East Side of Detroit. Unfortunately shortly after the Mural was installed On August 29, 2022, a storm passed through Detroit that had devastating impacts on various green spaces and homes. The winds during the storm violently dismembered trees all around the city. Including a large tree in the nursery where my mural of Wangari Maathai was installed.
When the tree came crashing down the gazebo surrounding the mural took a heavy blow shattering the mural into various pieces. I was completely devastated and heartbroken to think something so unthinkable could happen. I mean, what were the odds?
As I was grieving and reflecting on the reality of the damages something very spiritual happened to me. For a moment, a calmness came into my mind and body in this state of being I felt the spirit of Wangari. I could hear her voice faintly whispering within my subconscious saying, “ what had happened here in this nursery was the direct effect of climate change and its powerful ability to destroy ” she said “the hurt that I felt was real and a similar pain she once felt seeing her homelands in Kenya exploited and distorted due to the continuous effects of colonialism and deforestation” She told me “that this violence and harm was the fuel that pushed her to fight to protect the environment and that The tree that crashed down did not do nor want to do this, this was no natural disaster this was the physical manifestation and consequence of climate change that continues to poison and destroy the harmony of our home planet earth”.
After this realization, I felt clear-headed about what had happened.
This tragedy is yet another opportunity for embracing change and growing awareness of the climate crisis. Although saddened by this unfortunate event, I am optimistic for what is to come and blossoming through the process of reconstruction and repurposing this commemorative mural honoring the legacy of Wangari Maathai. This accident should not stop us from continuing the quite literal groundbreaking work that the Arb has been uplifting. The work is to restore and return natural spaces to the people and help the community widen awareness of our power to impact this vulnerable coexistence we share with the natural world around us.
2020 | Mural Assistant for Detroit based muralist Nicole Macdonald | Black Bottom & Paradise Valley | Located at the corner of Mack Ave & Jhon R St Detroit Mi.