One air for all

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AIR pollution was dramatically reduced in Beijing for the 2008 Olympic games, showing what can be done when governments and people act. Especially governments that don’t have to worry about winning elections.

But five years on the Beijing air is once again thick with vehicle fumes and residents routinely wear face masks.

Smart folk wear masks that filter out microscopic particles known as PM2.5, virtually unknown in 2008 but now recognised as a major health threat, according to a recent report in the South China Morning Post.

It dubs “notorious” Beijing winters as “airpocalypse”, a choking smog that lingers for months.

Hailing from the Chinese capital, Angela Mingzhu Nie used to live in the thick of it before heading to the clear skies of Perth—coincidently around the time of the Games.

Her daily battle living with pollution is behind her first solo exhibition We All Share the Same Sky, showing at Perth Tafe.

Pollution knows no borders, Nie says, as seen when last year’s forest fires in Indonesia resulted in Singapore’s worst pollution on record, and led to the closure of schools in Malaysia—not for the first time.

“We are all living under the same sky,” she says, softly.

Australians enjoy clean air but despite the continent’s relative isolation, nowhere is immune to the growing problem of air pollution.

“[People] never believe it can happen here.”

Pollution knows no borders

Nie’s exhibition includes paintings, drawings and installations, using traditional materials that include rubbish bags and a thousand white face masks that create a huge “cloud”.

“My works seek to expose the quirks in society and what we take for granted as normal. I hope [they] will awaken viewers’ minds and encourage everyone to do our best to protect our natural environment,” Nie tells the Voice.

Stark images of pollution—Australians produce, per person, more carbon pollution that just about anyone on Earth—contrast with “brighter” images of Australia, adding to the impact, Nie says.

The 44-year-old didn’t discover her artistic side until she was well into her 30s and living in Perth.

“I found I have a lot of talent,” she says with no hint of bragging.

Tafe was quick to spot her talent, inviting her to hold the exhibition.

The visual arts graduate has been offered a two-year residency at the Melody Smith Gallery, in Carlisle.

We All Share the Same Sky is on at Tafe’s Shopfront Gallery, 149 Beaufort Street, Northbridge, February 13–26. Admission is free and the works are for sale.


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