In Kenya, rubbish reborn as art

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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)
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Kenyan "junk artist" Evans Ngure shows collected materials that he uses for his works at a dumpsite in Nairobi on August 2, 2018. (AFP)
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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
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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.


Upcoming albums to end the year on a high note

Updated 19 September 2018
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Upcoming albums to end the year on a high note

  • Check out the upcoming albums of the year
  • Here is a list of new music to look out for

DUBAI: Very few artists are synonymous with a genre — but David Guetta is the emissary of EDM, the head honcho of house. The Frenchman might get flak from detractors about his live performance style, but it is unlikely the multi-platinum-selling DJ and producer loses much sleep over it. “7,” his seventh studio outing (queue the memes), is a double album jam-packed with sizzling crossover collaborations featuring pop/hip-hop luminaries such as Justin Bieber, Sia, G-Eazy and Nicki Minaj. With another runaway hit on the cards, slowing down does not appear to be in 50-year old Guetta’s plans.

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Muse, “Simulation Theory”
November 9, Warner Bros. Records

With a career spanning 25 years, and their previous record debuting at number one in an almost implausible 21 countries, the tireless threesome do not seem to have much left to prove. And yet Muse are never short of ambition. For their eighth studio LP, the Grammy-guzzling, stadium-rock royalty have enlisted an all-star roster of producers that includes pop powerhouse Timbaland, and have commissioned cover art from a designer of posters for major Hollywood movie hits. Expect a majestic alt-rock affair laced with soaring vocals, blistering musicianship and Muse’s trademark knack for tasteful theatrics.

Sharmoofers, “Enfesam”
October/November, Independent

The Egyptian gurus of groove are, hands down, the ultimate party band. They have been taking the Middle East by storm since 2012 with their infectious hooks, wildly entertaining lyrics and indomitable energy on the stage. If “Paranoia,” their 2015 debut, was the sound of trendsetters dancing to their own tune, “Enfesam” chronicles a coming of age, as well as a first foray into romantic themes. They are branching out and growing — naturally — but with a playful abandon of a kind that only the Sharmoofers know how.

Twenty One Pilots, “Trench”
October 5, Fueled By Ramen

It is hard to believe that this trailblazing electro/hip-hop and alt/indie-rock duo have been working the international touring circuit for almost 10 years. 2015’s “Blurryface” became the first album in history to have every track certified at least gold in the US. And with “Trench,” their fifth LP, it is official: the Pilots are ruthless, go-getting, hit-maker machines. “Jumpsuit” is already the decade’s fastest-rising No. 1 single on Billboard’s Alternative Songs radio-airplay chart, though the full album is still awaiting release.

Le Trio Joubran, “The Long March”
October 12, Cooking Vinyl

To say that Samir, Wissam and Adnan Joubran merely play music could almost be regarded as an insult. The three oudists use “the king of instruments” as a conduit, a beating heart that unites them in an impassioned, deeply spiritual form of expression. For their long-awaited new LP they have teamed up with the legendary Roger Waters on the moving lead single, “Carry the Earth.” The album is a profound poetic canvas for their unique brand of experimentation — and an artistic triumph that looks certain to endure.

Josh Groban, “Bridges”
September 21, Reprise

A jack of all trades can avoid “master of none” territory only if they are capable of jumping from one role to another with an effortless, chameleonic elegance. Josh Groban is made of the stuff. He is a prolific film and TV actor, but it is his instantly recognizable voice that has helped the award-winning multi-instrumentalist sell more than 25 million classical/pop crossover albums worldwide. His highly anticipated eighth LP includes high-profile guest appearances by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah McLachlan, and features Groban singing in various languages.

Sigala, “Brighter Days”
September 21, Ministry of Sound/Columbia

Bruce Fielder ¬— better known as Sigala — is only about to drop his first full-length album. Incredibly, however, he recently hit the landmark of 1 billion streams on Spotify, while as many as six of his singles have hovered inside the top 10 of the UK singles chart. “Easy Love,” his 2015 debut, even reached No. 1. The English house and dance-pop DJ, producer and remixer has assembled a stellar line-up of collaborators, including Craig David, Nile Rodgers, Meghan Trainor and French Montana. One to watch closely.

Ibrahim Maalouf, “Levantine Symphony No. 1”
Out now, Universal Music

The French-Lebanese trumpet player and composer has always sought to demolish clichés with his unconventional arrangements and rhythms. His melodies and harmonies translate a musical upbringing enveloped by the mystique of the East into an eclectic, neo-classical melange, with jazz and world-music overtones. This might sound like a mouthful to the uninitiated but Maalouf’s greatest gift stems from his ability to craft a masterwork that transcends stereotypical complexities, leaving the listener with an inspiring opus that is both diverse and speaks with a confident, unified voice.

Cher, “Dancing Queen”
September 28, Warner Bros. Records

Cher may be 72 years old but she is the “Goddess of Pop,” Abba are one of the best-selling acts of all time (up there with Cher) and “Mamma Mia” is a massive hit with cinema audiences. So this covers album, which the Oscar, Emmy and Grammy winner was inspired to record following her 2018 appearance in the 2018 sequel to the big-screen musical that everyone begrudgingly adores, gets at least an honorable mention. Irresistible, iconic pop tunes — even if you will not hear anyone admit it.

Jean-Michel Jarre, Equinoxe Infinity
November 16, Sony

Another living legend gearing up to make a statement of note, but unlike others Jean-Michel Jarre is not simply riding on the coattails of his glory days. France’s “godfather of electronic music” is celebrating lifetime sales of more than 80 million units, and half a century of not just performing but relentless innovation, with a sequel to his 1978 landmark “Equinoxe” album. The record focuses on humankind’s relationship with technology, as seen through the pioneering musical lens of a man who has more than 20 studio albums under his belt, and counting. Talk about dedication and perseverance.

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Equinoxe Infinity - 16.11.18 Link in bio.

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