In Kenya, rubbish reborn as art

1 / 3
In a room that is both home and studio, Evans Ngure works on a sculpture, a fantastical fish fabricated from found objects: wooden spoons, broken scissors and an old machete. (AFP)
2 / 3
Kenyan "junk artist" Evans Ngure shows collected materials that he uses for his works at a dumpsite in Nairobi on August 2, 2018. (AFP)
3 / 3
Kenyan "junk artist" Evans Ngure shows earings made with collected materials at a dumpsite in Nairobi on August 2, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 31 August 2018
0

In Kenya, rubbish reborn as art

NAIROBI: In a room that is both home and studio, Evans Ngure works on a sculpture, a fantastical fish fabricated from found objects: wooden spoons, broken scissors and an old machete.
Long before upcycling became a hipster mantra, Ngure turned his Nairobi apartment into a workshop, and junk into art, his choice of artistic expression echoing a necessary developing world culture of re-use.
After trying his hand at painting and graphic design, Ngure became a “junk artist” as an act of reciprocity and community.
“My goal is to have an impact on society, from the ground where I live to everybody that comes in contact with my art,” he says.
Sometimes he forages for raw materials himself, sometimes his neighbors bring him items, sometimes buyers hand over bits and pieces.
People “end up seeing my work, they relate to it, so they take part by giving me stuff that I can use,” he says.


The artist’s imprint is clear on the roof of the four-story apartment building where he lives in the north of the Kenyan capital: reclaimed art is scattered about, a strip curtain made from hundreds of buttons leads inside.
To live from his art, Ngure makes and sells everything from small items of jewelry, to large pieces of art. Wire pendants, earrings and bracelets sell for $5-20 (4-17 euros) while bigger works and sculptures cost hundreds.
“Mostly it is the Kenyans that buy from me, especially the jewelry,” he says, of his clientele, who visit him at home.
He takes out a brooch from a paper bag. It consists of a two-euro coin hanging from a golden wire, with beads and a miniature Eiffel Tower.
These are quick to produce and Ngure can make them in a matter of hours, but sculptures can take several days.
Ngure imagines himself resurrecting unwanted objects, and is constantly on the lookout, whether wandering downtown or scouring a rubbish dump.
“I collect them from different areas, I collect them from the ground even when I am walking in town, I get them from friends as donations or from my customers.
“I also have a landfill where I go to collect, even around here I have a place where I collect,” says the 29-year-old.
Closest by is an informal dump spilling across a dirt road between a pair of buildings near to his home. Here, Ngure salvages discarded plastic toys and tin cans, leaving with his arms full.
“I am collecting whatever material I find... This is part of a motorcycle, so, by the look of this, it will end up as a very amazing sculpture,” he says, with an enthusiastic smile, weighing the dented metal in his hands.


Determined by the random chance of what Ngure finds, his sculptures have a sometimes surreal style.
“All my life I have been that kid that loves collecting stuff but it never blossomed until I went to campus where we started creating artwork from unconventional materials,” says Ngure, who studied painting at Nairobi’s Kenyatta University.
“I started adding things into my paintings, like buttons and cutouts from clothes, so that evolved into full collages entirely made from found objects.”
As an example, he reaches for a peacock, its body made entirely from strips of old leather belts with cutlery for a train.
Recycling has become such a core element of Ngure’s life and work that he can’t but anthropomorphise the components of his art.
“It is not only people that need second chances but also objects that cannot speak for themselves, they need that second chance: before you trash them, just re-think about them,” he says.
The artist also wants to raise awareness about the protection of wildlife by making collages representing animals such as butterflies or ladybugs which he exhibited, with other works, at the British Institute a few months ago.


New E! channel reality show follows women across the Mideast

Updated 15 December 2018
0

New E! channel reality show follows women across the Mideast

DUBAI: US TV channel E! is set to premiere a new show about the Middle East’s female entrepreneurs on Dec. 23. Here are six of the stars who will feature in “Generation M.E.”

Dana Al-Tuwarish
The Kuwaiti influencer and entrepreneur will host the show and is already a well-known name in the region with her two million Instagram followers and numerous beauty ventures.
Arwa Al-Banawi
The Saudi designer launched her own fashion line in 2015 and recently made headlines when Will Smith and his son, Jaden, popped into her Dubai Design District showroom for a visit in October.
Tara Khattar
The New York-based Lebanese chef is a fast-rising star on the culinary scene and at just 25-years-old has already appeared on “Top Chef France.”
Manal Rostom
In May, the Egyptian marathon-runner and mountaineer became the first Arab woman to be featured on the Global Nike+ Run Club App.
Joelle Mardinian
The Lebanese beauty entrepreneur launched her chain salon Maison de Joelle in 2008 and it now has branches in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Riyadh, Jeddah, Doha, Tunisia and Kurdistan.
Hanan Mazouzi
The Algerian car-lover founded the UAE’s first women-only supercar club, the Arabian Gazelles, and has been featured in everything from CNN to Vogue magazine.