Prizes and tree-planting for China's young green artists
Nairobi, 9 August 2010 - Nine-year-old Jingmin Wang says she's on a mission. After watching zebras, giraffes and elephants in Kenya's wildlife reserves, she's been inspired to return to China and tell "all her friends and family" to do more to protect the environment.
Wang Jingmin is one of twenty winners of this year's Chinese Children's Painting Competition organised by the Luo Hong Environmental Foundation and supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Today, the twenty finalists took part in an awards ceremony at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, and later followed in the footsteps of many world dignitaries by planting trees at the United Nations complex.
The painting contest - now in its third year - is organised by UNEP Climate Hero Luo Hong; a well-known entrepreneur and wildlife photographer in China. The theme of this year's contest was "Biodiversity in Action", and a record 2.6 million children from across China took part. During a week-long trip to Kenya sponsored by Mr. Luo, the twenty winners and their teachers travelled to the rich wildlife habitats of the Maasai Mara and Lake Nakuru to witness biodiversity in action.
At today's awards ceremony in Nairobi, the young artists received certificates for their paintings - all of which will go through to the UNEP International Children's Painting Competition on the Environment. The winner of that award will be announced on 12 August 2010.
The winning entries from the Chinese contest - which include tigers lamenting on the fur trade, monkeys suffering the results of deforestation and giraffes gasping for air in a smog-filled city - were also displayed on social networking sites such as Facebook, Flickr and Renren. The pictures were shared by thousands and inspired many enthusiastic comments. "Looking at the suffocating smoke the child from Beijing drew, I feel like I am going to be smothered as well. There is endless imagination and ideas, which extend into the wide blue sky", wrote one Chinese internet user.
"The annual visit to Nairobi by the winners of the Chinese Children's Painting Competition has become one of the highlights of the year", said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director at today's ceremony. "When I look at the imagination and passion for the environment shown in your paintings, I know why I am here doing my job at UNEP", said Mr. Steiner, who joined Luo Hong and competition chairperson Liz Rihoy on the podium.
Mr. Luo also congratulated the children and teachers on their winning entries and vowed to attract even more participants to next year's competition. "It is very important to the spread the word on the environment", said Mr. Luo. "In China, more and more people are taking an interest in this competition and I will do my very best to make it bigger each year."
Certificates in hand, the children made their way to the wooded grounds of the United Nations complex where they planted five trees and unveiled a plaque to mark the occasion. The young laburnum trees were among dozens of species of plant and animal life witnessed by the young painters during their trip to Kenya; an experience that has also planted a long-term enthusiasm to protect the environment.
"I painted my picture because I saw that humans' behaviour is hurting animals", said nine-year-old Jingmin Wang, the painter of 'Please Close your Mouth', which shows lions, birds and trees inside a gaping human mouth. "I want to go back and tell my friends and teachers and family that we have to be less wasteful and use less water. This will help protect our animals and trees."