The “CÔA – Corridor of Arts” Festival will take place in the summer of 2023. Celebrating the nature and culture of northern Portugal’s Greater Côa Valley, it will build engagement with local communities and help to promote rewilding.
The art of nature
The natural world not only provides people with resources such as clean air, fresh water, and fertile soil but less tangible benefits too, such as the inspiration for artistic expression. Over the centuries the complex beauty of nature has stimulated innumerable artists, whether it be the array of colours in a sunset or the natural geometry of a pine cone. Some take this beauty and transpose it into an entirely new medium, while others manipulate natural materials themselves and transform them into art.
Nature, culture and art will come together in the “CÔA – Corridor of Arts” Festival, which will take place in the summer of 2023, in the Greater Côa Valley rewilding landscape in northern Portugal. Organised by Rewilding Portugal, it will see artists connect with communities in the natural environment of the valley to co-create works of art, using natural materials, respecting natural decay, and referencing the valley’s unique cultural history. By building engagement, it will help to promote rewilding and the recovery of local wild nature.
The CÔA Festival will be a mobile affair, taking place in five different municipalities of the Greater Côa Valley on consecutive weekends. On these days the festival will feature cinema, theatre, music, and other performing arts, as well as markets where local producers and operators will have the opportunity to promote and sell natural products and nature-based services. There will also be educational activities for children.
On the days between these weekends, community-focused workshops and activities in nature will be organised, as well as field visits and walks to pieces of art developed by artists in residence. Such visits will cover topics such as astronomy, biology and geology, as well as rewilding. Between six to 10 artworks will be created through these artistic residencies, transforming the landscape of the Greater Côa Valley into a vibrant, open-air museum.
“The idea behind the festival is to create a bond between the artists and the surrounding communities, making them part of the creative process,” says Rewilding Portugal Team Leader Pedro Prata. “The festival will inspire people to journey into nature, to learn more about rewilding and the valley’s cultural heritage, and to instill in them a sense of belonging and pride.”
A corridor through time
Much of the rewilding now taking place in the Greater Côa Valley involves the promotion of human-wildlife coexistence. But with this focus on the contemporary, it is easy to overlook the fact that relations between man and wildlife in the area – and nature-based artistic expression – date back tens of thousands of years. The valley contains thousands of remarkably well-preserved open-air rock engravings of wild animals and human figures, the oldest of which date back to around 22,000 BCE.
“Today, rewilding efforts mean the Greater Côa Valley is becoming an increasingly important wildlife corridor,” says Pedro Prata. “But the valley is also a corridor through time. Generation after generation have contributed to and shared in artistic expression here. The COA Festival will celebrate this, and reinforce the special connection between local communities, art and wild nature.”
The COA Festival is funded by the Endangered Landscapes Programme (ELP), which is managed by the Cambridge Conservation Initiative and funded by Arcadia, a charitable fund run by Peter Baldwin and Lisbet Rausing. The ELP has supported the scaling up of rewilding in the Greater Côa Valley since 2019.