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New Eden rainforest exhibition inspires next generation of artists

  • 4 min read

New Eden rainforest exhibition inspires next generation of artists

A spectacular new exhibition of work by two top artists has inspired more than 1,000 young people from around the world to create their own rainforest-themed works.

John Dyer, the Eden Project’s painter in residence, and Nixiwaka Yawanawá, an Amazonian Indian artist, created 12 paintings offering a unique insight into the sacred spiritual culture of the Yawanawá tribe of Brazil.

The works were created during a special residency in the Rainforest Biome during May this year.

John and Nixiwaka worked alongside one another in the Rainforest Biome on a series of paintings, inspired by the Yawanawá tribe. The artists produced their own unique takes on the spirits and plants of the rainforest.

John said: “I discovered that Nixiwaka had a dream, his dream was to paint. I also had a dream, a dream of connecting young people to tribal culture in a positive and life changing way. Working together we have realised this dream and the outcome is a world first and truly spectacular."

A project for young artists to create work inspired by the rainforest and John and Nixiwaka’s paintings received entries from China, Kenya, Italy, Hungary and Singapore as well as the UK.

Twenty-four winning entries, across four age group categories from under-fives to 13-16 year olds, have been chosen by a panel of expert judges and these will be displayed in the Rainforest Biome. In addition to this, all of the entries are available to view online through or

The children’s artworks were unveiled at Eden on Saturday (October 17), alongside John and Nixiwaka’s works.

Over 450 people attended the launch event. Banrock Station wine supported the event which allowed the Eden Project to professionally frame up the top 24 winning entries.

After an hour the crowds were called to the main presentation by Nixiwaka Yawanawá singing a tribal song.

The director of the Eden Project, Gordon Seabright, then welcomed the audience. The president of Survial International Robin Hanbury-Tenison spoke about the work Survival in engaged with all over the world campaigning for tribal people's rights. Artist John Dyer spoke abot the project and announced that 'wishes do come true' as his wish and Nixiwaka's dream had come together to create the project.

Artist John Dyer, Amazon Indian Nixiwaka Yawanawá and Robin Hanbury-Tenison presented the awards for the winning 24 children who travelled from all over the UK and from Italy to be there for the event.

Every child received a warm welcome from the crowd and was given a signed John Dyer limited edition print, a signed book by Robin Hanbury-Tenison and a goody bag from Eden. Some of the winners also received art sets supplied from Jacksons art and Art Mugs from Zazzle with the child's winning picture printed on them.

During the awards Wilamena Dyer read a poem she had written about Nixiwaka.

“We have 12 metres of professional art from myself and Nixiwaka exploring the sacred spirits of the rainforest and over 200 metres of art on display in the Rainforest Biome from children from the UK, Kenya, Hungary, Hong Kong, China and Italy. It gives you goosebumps to see and I know we have connected thousands of young people to the rainforest in a unique and powerful way.”

Jo Elworthy, Eden’s director of interpretation, said: “We have been amazed by the vision and quality of the work we’ve received for the Spirit of the Rainforest competition. It’s heartening that the rainforest has provided such an inspiration for a new generation of young artists from around the world.

“The bold and beautiful paintings of John and Nixiwaka are a fabulous addition to the great body of work that has been created in and inspired by the Eden Project. Their collaboration has not only acted as an inspiration for a new generation of artists but will also help highlight the challenges faced by both tribal people and the rainforest in general.”

Nixiwaka Yawanawá is a Yawanawá Indian from the Brazilian Amazon. He has spent a year working with the charity Survival International to raise awareness of the Amazon and to speak out for tribal peoples’ rights.

Nixiwaka said: "When we see harm come to the rainforest, it is as if a part of our own body has been hurt. It feels like an illness that rises up in us and needs to be cured."

John Dyer is one of the UK's most exciting and well known postmodern painters. His work is collected internationally and his paintings have been the subject of popular television programmes and a wide range of merchandise.

John said: "The rainforest is a vital part of our lives and our future. We don't all realise this yet but the tribal people of the Amazon know it. By engaging children with the rainforest through art I hope it will build a lifelong concern and connection to the environment.

John Dyer at the Eden Project

“When I travelled to the Amazon in 1989 as a photographer with Thames TV I was inspired. Inspired by the beauty and inspired to paint. I have painted ever since.”

Spirit of the Rainforest is being produced in partnership with Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights. Survival helps them defend their lives, protect their lands and determine their own futures.

Eden and Survival most recently worked together on the People of the Rainforest photographic exhibition. Stunning pictures of tribal people of the rainforest taken by Cornish explorer and writer Robin Hanbury-Tenison and the world-renowned photographer Sebastião Salgado have been on display in Eden’s Rainforest Biome since October last year.

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