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Cape Town Art Buzz
Bees art

Cape Town Art Buzz

A dramatic new art display at Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel draws attention to the plight of South Africa’s bees. How can we help to halt the threats to their survival?

Some of our planet's most impressive animals are under threat. The rhino. The panda. The tiger. But the extinction of a much smaller and less obviously impressive species will have catastrophic consequences for our entire ecosystem.

Bees across the world are disappearing at an alarming rate due to various factors including pesticides, foulbrood disease, colony collapse disorder and often simply loss of habitat. This places a third of the food on our tables at immediate risk. In the long term it also threatens the existence of all fauna and flora.

"We lose the bees, we lose everything" is the title of an art exhibit installed recently at Cape Town’s iconic Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel. The arresting triptych features large scale illustrations of the familiar faces of extinction, created entirely out of dead bees to underline this important message.

Creating the artworks for display using actual bees to make the designs.

To realise the display, thousands of dead bees from infected hives around the Cape were collected, dried, sorted and carefully crafted onto canvas to spell out the message and draw the supporting visuals.

Says Paul Strappini, Executive Creative Director at J. Walter Thompson, the agency that created the pieces: "The work needed to be visual, visceral and authentic to make an impact. We decided to use the bees themselves to carefully craft pieces that use the bodies of our subject matter to underline the severity of this issue. In this way, our very cause became the ink in our pens, the typeface for our words and the paintbrush for our design."

Importantly, Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel is also playing a role in helping rebuild the local bee population. The hotel's rooftop hives are home to well established colonies of the Cape honey bee (Apis mellifera capensis), a species unique to the region and currently under threat.

Apart from keeping the beautiful flowers in the hotel's extensive gardens in bloom, these hardworking bees also provide harvested honeycomb for the Chef's Table, a rare treat for food-loving guests.

The good news

You do not need to be a beekeeper to help save the bees. Nor do you need a massive flowering garden. No matter where you live, there is something you can do to aid their survival for future generations.

  • Buy local, raw honey. Check the label to make sure it is organic, local and untreated by chemicals.
  • Buy local produce. Look for regional organically grown fruits, vegetables and flowers at farmers’ markets.
  • Plant bee-friendly plants. Bees love flowers (especially blue, purple or yellow ones) but they also love flowering herbs like lavender, sage and mint and most flowering trees.
  • Avoid pesticides. Most chemicals used on lawns and flowers tend to also kill useful insects or leach into flowers' pollen.
  • Put up a water station. Pollinating the planet is thirsty work but a small water basin in your garden will make a massive difference for travelling bees.
  • Become a backyard beekeeper. Urban beekeeping is fast growing in popularity in cities and can be an amazingly rewarding hobby. Contact a local beekeeping association to get involved.
  • Teach your children about bees. Make sure the little ones know all about bees and just how important they are to all of us.