Insect exhibition at Brenthurst
Written by Lucille Davie
Monday, 17 March 2008
Creepy crawlies of all shapes and sizes are on show at a fascinating art exhibition at Little Brenthurst, including representations in paintings, drawings, wirework and beadwork.
IF you see ants simply as nuisance insects that invade your sandwiches on picnics, while bees hover over your Coke can, stop a moment and reconsider.
The South African Invertebrate Art Exhibition at Little Brenthurst is hoping to get everyone to think again about insects. The exhibition is an effort to draw attention to the decreasing numbers of insects, the earth's barometer of how the environment is faring.
"The exhibition hopes to engage the average person and hopefully create an interest in and appreciation of these wonderful creatures and it highlights the beauty and uniqueness of invertebrates," says Strilli Oppenheimer, in whose home the exhibition is being held.
Butterflies, caterpillars, beetles, ants, grasshoppers and lots of other creepy crawlies abound in a variety of media: precise scientific drawings, beautifully detailed Ardmore-like ceramics, large wire insects, intricate beaded insects, carved wooden insects and colourful embroidered insects.
There are artworks from 100 artists, ranging from scientists to artists like Walter Oltmann and Beezy Bailey. They come from the Everard Read Gallery, the Goodman Gallery, the African Art Centre, the National Insect Collection and a number of South African invertebrate artists.
Naturalist EO Wilson, a Harvard professor emeritus and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, puts the number of animal and plant species on earth at 1,8 million, the large majority of which are insects.
"This exhibition aims to promote interest in invertebrate science, conservation and awareness through art," says Duncan MacFadyen, the manager of research and conservation for E Oppenheimer & Son.
It has been found that insect populations are declining, and the likely causes are multiple - loss of habitat, use of insecticides, pollution, light and possibly electromagnetic devices in the form of cellphones and their masks, radar, alarm systems, wireless internet, cordless phones, TV and microwaves.
Insects are essential for several reasons: they are very much a part of the Earth's food webs; they contribute to seed dispersal and pollination; they recycle nutrients; and they are scavengers and therefore cleansers of the earth.
Oppenheimer commissioned a study of insects in the
"I started asking these questions 10 years ago when a 95 percent decrease in the sparrow population occurred in
She has slowly converted pretty flowering beds to natural grasslands in her large garden.
The researchers chose 24 sites, including a section of the Brenthurst garden, the undisturbed Melville Koppies, and a pristine area of the
They found 16 species of ants and 30 species of ants in Brenthurst and Melville Koppies, respectively, and five species of beetles at each site. "Melville Koppies is really effective in maintaining biodiversity,"
Clark and Hawkes concluded that there was a significant local loss of insects because of habitat loss and degradation. This habitat takes decades to return to previous levels of biodiversity once disturbed, meaning that undisturbed grasslands have significant conservation value. They suggested that urban planning should allow for conservation areas. They found, too, that electromagnetic factors were significant in the decline of insect populations.
The exhibition is a precursor to the XXII International Congress of Entomology, to be held in
"This meeting will present a wonderful opportunity for South African and African entomologists to display their excellent research and to meet and mix with world-class entomologists," MacFadyen said.
The art exhibition will move to the congress venue in
The South African Invertebrate Art Exhibition is at Little Brenthurst until the end of April; however, booking is essential, and includes a tour of the exhibition. Phone Dora on 011 646 1529 - the limited tour days are filling up fast. Tours of the gardens of Brenthurst are also available.
The Canadian Initiative to stop
Wireless, Electric, and