Nico de Transilvania wins Endangered Landscapes Programme arts prize

Posted: 18th October 2022

Marius Sumlea

The Endangered Lanscapes Programme is delighted to announce that the winner of our 2021/22 Arts Prize is Nico de Transilvania.

Music producer and DJ Nico de Transilvania was awarded the prize of $2,500 following her ELP residency with Foundation Conservation Carpathia in Romania.

Drawing on her Romanian heritage, Nico’s project INTERBEING combines music and film to bring generations of forest communities together and celebrate their music; music that centres around people’s connections with natural cycles. During her residency Nico produced two original tracks, fusing traditional songs and instruments, forest soundscapes and electronica to capture the spirit of the Făgăraș Mountains. Building relationships with the community has been a focus for Nico. A key friendship has developed with an elder of the village of Nucsoara, Silvia Dan, who sings at the local church. Through her recording of Silvia and the church choir Nicoleta has revived a sense of pride in their music and traditions not only for the elders, but across generations who live in the area.

Nico is also founder of reforestation non-profit Forests Without Frontiers and funds raised through launching this project will go towards planting trees in the area where the album was recorded.

This project encompasses everything that I’ve wanted to do for a long time – bringing together music, art and environmental preservation. Hearing our compositions come together to express the beautiful culture and nature of my homeland is an incredible experience. It would be wonderful to develop this as a model to be replicated in other endangered landscapes around the world in order to regenerate nature and preserve the communities that live there.”  – Nico de Transilvania.

A group of 8 woman stand on a gravel track in the mountains. They are wearing traditional outfits.

Building relationships with communities in the Carpathian Mountians has been a key component of Nico’s project. Photo: Marius Sumlea.

The judging panel for the prize, Heather Ackroyd (Ackroyd & Harvey), Karen Thomas (Kettle’s Yard) and Tundi Agardi (Marine Conservation), unanimously agreed that the quality of engagement, production, and connection to the landscape and restoration was outstanding. Nico’s work brings different worlds together, champions traditional folk music at risk of being lost, engages sensitively with the community, and captures the rich and beautiful life of their forests.

‘Listening to her music really moved me, it elevated me, I just thought there was a bit of magic at work. She brought the landscape alive. Nico weaves together a sense of quiet, deep intuition and a profound commitment to the landscape and the planting of the trees. She has entwined and rooted herself into the cultural scene and reaches young and old people through contemporary dance and music which is exciting, and I can’t wait to hear other tracks on the album!’ – Heather Ackroyd, artist, Endangered Landscapes Artist Residencies judge.

2 men with microphone and camera film a woman in the forest

The tracks that Nico produced as part of her residency fuse electronica, forest soundscapes, and traditional songs and instruments. Photo: Marius Sumlea.

I am truly honoured to have won the ELP Art Prize. Myself and the whole team are really happy that our work has been appreciated by all the judges. I wish for the project to have a positive impact in the world and hope that we can continue spreading its message in the years to come and help regenerate the landscape through it, as well as making Silvia a global star!Nico de Transilvania on receiving the award.

Incorporating traditional music in to her pieces is important to Nico. Photo: Marius Sumlea.

‘The work is restorative at all levels: reviving language, music, and song at risk, and weaving together generations of people from six-year to eighty-year-olds.  It is wonderful work.’ – John Fanshawe, Curator of Art, Science and Conservation, Cambridge Conservation Initiative.

Highly commended were Robbie Synge, Amanda Thompson and Elizabeth Reeder who worked with Cairngorms Connect in Scotland. Their residency focused on process, methods of gathering and engagement, of deep learning about place. Inspired by practical fieldwork such as moth trapping, seed collecting and peat restoration, they collaborated extensively with local communities through writing, photography, sensory workshops, exhibitions and events to explore Abernethy Forest and its environs from a range of different perspectives.

Camera trap image of a deer next to a barbed wire fence.

The Cairngorms Connect Artist Residency outputs were inspired by practical fieldwork. Photo: Robbie Synge.

We would like to extend our thanks to all the ELP artists in residence who invested a huge amount of work to create engaging, innovative, and imaginative responses to the landscape restoration projects in which they were embedded.

Antony Lyons and Barbara Carvalho co-created Wild Coa Symphony, a video sonic portrait which weaves together voices, memories, music and poems to reflect local communities and the complex and entangled environments Greater Coa Valley, Portugal.

A new composition by Volkan Hurserver called ‘Song for Terra Mater’ (Song for Mother Earth) was inspired by the sea and wildlife in Gokova Bay, Turkey. A series of awe-inspiring photographs by Natela Grigalashvili captured an authentic vision of the lives of nomadic Azerbaijani shepherds who spend their winters in Chachuna, Georgia.

2 people hold a turkey outside a building in a barren looking landscape.

The artist residents used a variety of mediums to capture the landscapes and the communities within them. Photo: Natela Grigalashvili.

Judith Musker Turner, Manon Awst and Beth Celyn (working as the TAIR Collective) created a multimedia performance combining poetry, textiles and sound, which was filmed at Ynys Las Nature Reserve and showcased at the National Eisteddfod in Tregaron, Wales. Together they supported the Summit to Sea public consultation, helping to shape the next phase of the project, and to secure a new name ‘Tir Canol’ (Middle Ground) for the future.

The Endangered Landscapes Artist Residencies is a new collaboration between the Cambridge Conservation Initiative’s Endangered Landscapes Programme and Arts, Science and Conservation Programme. Launched in Summer 2021, eight artists/collectives with strong links to the eight ELP landscape restoration projects were selected to explore the relationships that exist between nature, people, and landscape, helping to understand and express how communities connect to the places where they live, work and play. The ELP projects are currently working in Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Portugal, Romania, Scotland, Turkey, Ukraine, and Wales.

For more information on the Artist Residencies, please visit the project pages. Nico is the founder of Forests Without Frontiers, a non-profit dedicated to planting trees and reforesting degraded landscapes with support from a network of artists and musicians. Nico de Transilvania’s project is dedicated to the memory of her mum, Ileana, and David Alexander Yeoman, one of the co-producers, both of whom sadly passed away during this residency.

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