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Melting ice sculptures evoke changing climate’s impact on Maasai

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Emily Gertz is a freelance journalist, editor, and blogger covering the environment, technology, science, and sustainability. She reported on the Copenhagen climate talks on behalf of Oxfam America.

Today Danish artists Soren Nielsen, Morten Moller and Mikael Plougstrup Nielsen have been sculpting two huge statues of two Maasai warriors — a  man and a woman holding a baby — out of ice just outside the Bella Center (the venue of the climate talks). The statues, carved on behalf of Oxfam, will melt away over the next two days, just in time for the end of the first week of international climate treaty negotiations.

The process is meant to symbolize the precarious situation of the Maasai tribes of Kenya, which are being hit hard by changes to the climate. One of the worst droughts in living memory has devastated the Maasai’s herds of cattle, and their livelihoods.

Each ice block is about 3 feet (or 1 meter exactly) tall and wide, and come from a river in Sweden. After being stacked three blocks high, the sculptors set to work with chainsaws and enormous chisel-like tools, expecting the entire process to take about 12 hours.

The process might go on a bit longer, however, because the pounding and roaring of the saws and tools was leaking through to meetings underway inside the conference center, forcing the staff to halt the artistic proceedings.

Eventually a compromise was worked out, and the carvers have been able to set to work periodically (presumably when the nearest rooms were not being used).

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