The project team in Alexandria

The mural in Alexandria

A vibrant mural created as part of an interdisciplinary UK-Egypt climate project has been unveiled in the city of Alexandria ahead of the global COP27 summit.

The artwork is one of the creative outputs of We Still Have a Chance – 12 Climate Stories for 12 Days of COP27, which has brought together scientists, health experts and artists to co-create a dozen tales that explore different aspects of the climate emergency.

Depicting issues such as marine pollution, environmental change and youth-led conservation, the 15-by-4.2-metre mural has been created by artist and architect Rana Hemdan and is installed at the Jesuit Cultural Center in Alexandria.

It is one of three that will be produced, with two further murals to come as a legacy of the project, funded by the community interest company, Knowledge E Foundation with the support of Banlastic Egypt, a social enterprise tackling plastic pollution.

“This message of the mural is how the youth of today are our agents of change,” said Rana. “The hands depict the cradling of nature and how young people are in a position to take control of the future of the planet.”

Inspired by the mountains of the Sinai Peninsula – which are featured in the mural – Rana found parallels between the area’s strong environmental ethos and the stories in We Still Have a Chance, which were co-created by more than 150 scientists, health experts, artists, and climate activists from Egypt and the UK.

They were brought together by the project’s partners – including the University of Exeter, the Met Office and the British Council – through a series of virtual writing workshops. Released as an anthology, the stories have also been narrated and will be made available to download on each day of the conference.

“Like many of the characters in the stories, the mural depicts the impact of marine plastic pollution, environmental degradation, and the loss of biodiversity,” adds Rana. “But there is a message of hope – that we still have a chance to protect what is left for future generations.”

The mural took two weeks to paint, with a team of volunteers helping Rana. Visitors to the Jesuit Cultural Center, which contains an exhibition of artwork created from plastic litter, and orchestrated by Banlastic, will access it through a door embedded in the mural.

Rana Hemdan
Rana Hemdan painting the mural

Manar Ramadan, Head of Research and Development at Banlastic, said: “From this mural to the exhibition, the message is clear – our city will not be buried beneath rising sea levels. But we need help to leave a green future. What is heartening is the response to this art, with people being drawn to the center to watch the mural take form, and engaging both in its creation and inspiration.”

We Still Have a Chance has inspired a range of creative interpretations of the stories, including two drama productions in Egypt and Exeter – the first of which has been accepted into both the Green and Blue Zones at COP27. There are also public storytelling sessions, and a special video produced by digital artist Jan Kamensky.

“Climate change is a global challenge that affects us all,” said Kamran Kardan, CEO and Founder of Knowledge E Foundation and the company Knowledge E. “And unless we change how we think and behave, we will not see a difference. We are proud to support this initiative with the University of Exeter and believe that these beautiful and meaningful murals in three separate and far locations can permanently amplify this message, that we can all make a positive difference no matter how small.”

“This project directly speaks to the University of Exeter’s 2030 strategy – creating a greener, healthier, fairer society,” added Professor Ian Fussell, academic lead for the project at Exeter. “It has connected disciplines across the University with each other and to our local communities and international partners. The legacy of this artwork and the stories created will open new doors for collaboration.”

To find out more about We Still Have a Chance, please visit the University’s Green Futures website.

Rana Hemdan
Rana Hemdan