BeeTotems for RefuBees
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Streets with (new) meaning
Ways of living, ways of sharing
Naturehood – wilder and greener
Image: MacSiersImaging
Contemporary application of totemism as social sculpture and art intervention in public space. Interdisciplinary art/science project engaging locals.

The main objective is the focus on an ecological challenge that without our natural environment, humanity is not able to survive. It is part of ecological healing process that will be necessary for life altogether to continue on earth. BeeTotems for RefuBees are a means and the results are Inner Cities as Nature reserves for wild pollinators.

Here we talk about Wild Bees and NOT honey or social Bees! Wild bees do better in inner cities than on the countryside. In fact the countryside is almost dead. One needs to realize that wild bees are the foundation of biodiversity.

It is a challenge to engage with the means of art interventions (social sculptures) in public space. This interdisciplinary project combines sociological, ecological and educational elements through theatrical acts and living sculptures. We take totemism, including rituals and performances as methodology to create ecological infrastructures in urban surroundings, while establishing social coherence and 'bottom up' movement to initiate a spiritual and cultural transformation. An art/science project with scientific research components that are used as case studies. With profound conceptual and experimental elements in the context of urban ecology & eco-cities, it adds an additional social value. BeeTotems for RefuBees is avant-garde, circular, up-cycling and all-inclusive.

BeeTotems are sculptures of a carefully selected wild bee species that acts as an eye-catcher and below it are several levels of the bee species' native nectar and pollen plants. In addition, the appropriate nesting opportunities for the respective species are also offered. These totems are to be set up in cities and families are to be sought who will take care of them on a voluntary, honorary and communal basis. The totems as an instrument and tool bring together the promotion of biodiversity in harmony with social activities and artistic aspects. A traditional example from Bavaria (Germany) of a totem is the May-pole

Before a totem is built, basic data on the wild bee species is gathered. Together with experts, mainly endangered, locally occurring Red List species are selected that need to be promoted. Citicen Science' will be implemented in the project to evaluate the success of the totems. Visitors can take pictures of the bees they see and upload them via QR code to a webpage specifically designed for this purpose. A professional evaluation is planned with the TUDelft Urban Ecology & Ecocities DesignLab


If you want to change how someone thinks, give it up; you cannot change how another thinks. Give them a tool, the use of which will lead them to think differently.
Buckminster Fuller

BeeTotems are such tools. The people working with it experience that dedication to nature is a necessity and gain insight into interdependence. Ultimately, together they create ‘The City as Nature Reserve for Pollinators’. BeeTotems encourage the planting of specific crops including 'valuable weed' already growing in the totem also on balconies or in backyards. They will learn that there are many different wild bees and each of them are uniquely important.

BeeTotem with people giving water to the plants

opening celebration with kids

theatrical openings act for neighbours

BeeTotems for RefuBees and Hans Kalliwoda

spectator scanning the QRcode to get mor information over this particular wild bee


The Blindpainters Foundation is an Amsterdam based Art Foundation founded in 1994.

It produces transcendent projects in a contemporary art context. Metaphorically the name Blindpainters is understood as in ‘turning a blind eye on facing constrains’, when manifesting complex projects. Quality and care are top priorities. The manpower behind it is a sustainable network of people, who not only enjoy immensely the energy released by the projects but also believe that these projects are to set milestones in the journey of art history. By realising the impossible they find the inspiration for continuity and uniqueness.

Blindpainters is multi-tasked, from art production work to curatorial arrangements, from film productions to book publishing. Please find out more about these projects in other sections on this website. Http://

Cross-disciplinary practice

World in a Shell (Hans Kalliwoda, 2000-2010) Mobile ‘Concepts of Homes’ are more than ever needed in times of changing climates and mass mobility. WiaS presents an architectural challenge, a cutting-edge engineering stunt, a ‘paradigm-shifting-intervention’ for interdisciplinary activities and a supreme sustainability project-in-the-make at the TUDelft University for Technology (2000-2005). It set a high benchmark on the forefront of the tiny and container-based house movement.