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.


Cirque du Soleil in Saudi Arabia: The perfect tribute to a rich culture

Crique du Soleil in Riyadh. (Arab News)
Updated 24 September 2018
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Cirque du Soleil in Saudi Arabia: The perfect tribute to a rich culture

  • Crique du Soleil created a spectacular show in Riyadh
  • They paid tribute to Saudi culture and heritage

RIYADH: The circus — a place that is almost synonymous with joy and delight. Since time immemorial, circuses have been places of celebration and glee, and few as much as the premier name in the industry: Cirque du Soleil.

The show has had a devoted fan in me since 2006, when I attended a performance of their production “Quidam” and my definition of the word “circus” was turned upside-down. Their unique approach to art, performance, costumes and music has secured their status as a household name and a benchmark for all other circus shows to be measured against.

On Sunday night, Saudi Arabia’s National Day, the circus brought their incredible acrobatics to Riyadh’s King Fahad Stadium and it turned out to be a night to remember.



Prior to the event, Cirque’s Vice President of Creation Daniel Fortin offered little in the way of spoilers but hinted that we would see something the likes of which we never had before. With the promises of exclusive new acts, music, costumes and stage tricks piquing my excitement, I joined a throng of green-and white-clad spectators flooding the stadium. Performing to a sold-out crowd, the show kicked off at exactly 8.30 p.m. and the magic truly began.

Barely five minutes into the show, something stole over me as I settled into the rhythm of the music, something I saw flickering over the faces of those in the crowd around me: Recognition. We were seeing ourselves, our identity, echoed back at us, but with a twist. We saw ourselves through someone else’s eyes — someone respectful and admiring.



As a Saudi youth today, it has become an unfortunately common occurrence to face negativity from various outsiders, born of ignorance or fear. It has become dreary and repetitive to have to continually defend my people and my culture from those who have no wish to understand us.

But at this show? I saw my country once more through the eyes of an outsider, but this time, it was different. I saw my culture and my heritage lauded, celebrated, delicately fused with that tangible Cirque du Soleil flair. The attention to detail was careful, almost loving, but also daring and outlandish. It was a glorious fusion of classic Saudi aesthetics with the ethereal, bizarre beauty of Cirque du Soleil.


The symbolism was not always obvious, sometimes it was subtle, constrained to the beat of a drum or hidden in a snatch of song. Other times, it was blatant and bold, in the sloping hump of an elegantly clumsy camel costume, or the billowing of the Bedouin Big Top in the gentle breeze. And yet, unmistakeably, I felt the Saudi influences in every note of the performance. It felt like an homage, and yet it did nothing to diminish its own identity. It remained unquestionably a Cirque du Soleil performance, only below the usual circus frippery, there was a ribbon of something else that lay coiled beneath the surface. Something bright, vibrant green. Saudi green.

The spectacle rounded off with an astonishing display of fireworks, so plentiful that for a moment, the sky glowed bright as day. To me, each one felt like a promise fulfilled. A dream achieved. A miracle witnessed. Here, on my own home soil, it was the perfect tribute to a rich and vivid culture.