Jimmy Nelson at the World Economic Forum

Davos House - 2020 

Amsterdam, The Netherlands, January 14, 2020 -  The World Economic Forum, which will be held in Davos this month, will be manifested around the theme “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World”. It will bring together 3,000 decision-makers, philanthropists and corporate activists from around the world, and aim to assist governments and international institutions in tracking progress towards the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. Jimmy Nelson will be presenting the first-ever Blink Test, an eye locked film showcasing a portraiture of the world’s last indigenous people. The ultimate aim is to provoke thought and spark conversation on the importance of safeguarding indigenous cultures in order to manifest a cohesive and sustainable future.


Artist Jimmy Nelson is sending a warning that the world is at risk of losing its global cultural heritage as their family trees, rivers, forests and habitats are destroyed in the quest for human progress.  The artist brings out a bid to preserve cultural diversity by issuing the caution: ‘BLINK. AND THEY’RE GONE’. A unique AR-Human interface challenges the viewer not to blink. If you blink, the film stops playing. A warning that if we don’t engage with indigenous cultures now, they will be gone forever and so will the world’s cultural diversity.

Our world is changing rapidly. Our ever-growing population and urge for bigger economies have led to both positive and negative developments, such as improved technology and industrialisation, globalisation, consumerism and global warming. Due to technological advances, it feels like we are accelerating into the future faster than ever before, but every day it becomes clearer that we are damaging our planet.

Indigenous peoples represent less than 5% of the global population, however, they manage 25% of the world’s surface and are ultimately responsible for 80% of the global diversity left in the world.

The forests under their stewardship store more than a quarter of all the world’s above ground tropical carbon. From tropical forests in Asia and Latin America, through to the Arctic tundra or cloud forests of the Pacific Northwest and Patagonia environments that acts as the planet’s vital organs, its lungs, its heart, its kidneys, its liver and for many of us its very soul have been protected by indigenous people the world over for thousands of years.

As we enter the decade of delivery, and all other global goals become contextualised by increased extreme weather events, natural disasters and an increasingly fragile ecosystem, piling more and more pressure on urban centers we believe it is only logical that those with the most experience of living in harmony with the natural environment have the most to teach us and the most to contribute.

“The time is now to acknowledge and celebrate the world last Indigenous communities as our new role models. They are the living example of how humans can live in perfect harmony with themselves, their unique cultures and the natural world.” 

 Artist Jimmy Nelson

Indigenous peoples are the ones who best protect nature because it is their work tool. In the heart of the tropical forests, it is in the areas populated by hunter-gatherer communities that we can find the most biodiverse areas. In the remotest deserts communities have learned to live with resources at their most minimum. In the coastal areas, from the Central American Kuna to the Pacific Maori, traditional fishing methods preserve corals, mangroves and other unique ecosystems that are the most effective barrier to rising sea levels.

Indigenous are ready to share their traditional knowledge, and to (re)teach humankind how to live in harmony with nature. But for this, it is imperative that all major polluters in the world respect their commitment, made in Paris in 2015, to do everything to limit global warming to below 1,5 degrees Celcius.

By attending the World Economic Forum in Davos,  Jimmy Nelson will convey the importance of protecting what’s left of the last pristine nature and the connection of human beings living in harmony and respect for the natural world and each other.

The World Economic Forum has announced the theme and details for its 50th Annual Meeting, to be held 21-24 January in Davos, Switzerland.

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About Jimmy Nelson

Jimmy Nelson (UK, 1967) started working as a photographer in 1987. Having spent ten years at a Jesuit boarding school in the North of England, he set off on his own to traverse the length of Tibet on foot (1985). The journey lasted two years and upon his return his visual diary, featuring revealing images of a previously inaccessible Tibet, was published.

Soon after (1987) he was commissioned to cover a variety of culturally newsworthy themes for many of the world-leading publications ranging from the Russian involvement in Afghanistan and the ongoing strife between India and Pakistan in Kashmir to the beginning of the war in former Yugoslavia.

In early 1994 he and his Dutch ex-wife Ashkaine Hora Adema produced Literary Portraits of China. A coffee-table book about all indigenous cultures in China and their translated literature. From 1997 onwards, Jimmy undertook commercial advertising assignments for many of the world’s leading brands. Meanwhile, he spent his whole life accumulating images of indigenous cultures.

In 2010 he began his journey to create the artistic document that became Before They Pass Away, which was published in October 2013. Its success and the responses to it have enabled and encouraged Jimmy to continue this journey. In October 2018, Nelson published the first interactive book Homage to Humanity, for which he visited another unique 34 indigenous cultures around the globe. The book is accompanied by the 2019 Webby Award-winning mobile application that makes it possible to scan every image in the book and bring them to life with exclusive films, interviews and 360 ̊ film material. This allows people to see the making of the work and to understand the process behind it.

Today Jimmy is using an 8x10 analogue plate camera to bring the project to its next level. Jimmy strongly believes that if you change the way you look at people, the people you look at change. And if that change is powerful enough, it will gather momentum to affect the whole of humanity. A message that today he is promoting through talks at international conferences and museum exhibitions. With the proceedings of his art projects, the Jimmy Nelson Foundation was set up to take it a step further in supporting the communities on the ground.