Central Africa

Contemporary Artists Creating Art with Recycled Items

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Recycled art has always been around us and now more artists are becoming more environmentally conscious. They have found new ways to create art by working with recyclable materials. 

French sculptor Marcel Duchamp was said to have started the recycled art movement in the early 20th century, especially with his most talked about work of art, Bicycle wheel. Bicycle wheel was made with a  bicycle fork with the front wheel mounted upside-down on a wooden stool. 

Today, artists have reused basic everyday items in their work. They seek to bridge the gap between their audience and the society by acting as a mediator on behalf of the environment. Artists have worked with scraps of steel, spools of discarded threads, old rags, foil, gallons, and so on to infuse new meanings in their works. 

Meet 6 of the best artists working with recycled materials in Africa.

  1. Gonçalo Mabunda
Image courtesy of the artist. 

Gonçalo Mabunda was born in 1975, in Maputo, Mozambique. He draws on the collective memory in order to explore the political history of his home country, Mozambique, which has only recently emerged from the bloody civil war that lasted for more than 15 years. He repurposes the deactivated war materials like AK-47s, rockets, land mines, and shell casings and turns them into masks, thrones, and other sculptures. This creative process shows that it was possible for Mabunda to inspire new memories for postwar Mozambique, create beauty from the ruins and forge a new tradition of beauty.

Gonçalo Mabunda, The Guardian of the Forest (wall mask), 2019, Accumulation of bullets and deconstructed weapons, 76 × 50 × 13 cm
Image courtesy of Artsy
The Benevolent Throne, 2020, Mixed media, 135 x 95 x 60 cm. 
Image courtesy of 1-54.

You can find the artist here

  1. Serge Attukwei Clottey
Image courtesy of Galleries Now. 

Serge Attukwei Clottey (b. 1985) is known for his work that examines the powerful agency of everyday objects. Clottey uses everyday objects as his canvas, such as discarded Kufuor gallons, car tyres, and recycled boat wood. He examines personal narratives, family and collective histories, often relating to trade and migration, through installation, performance, photography, and sculpture. His sculptural installations are bold assemblages made from cutting, drilling, stitching, and melting found materials. These sculptures also act as a means of inquiry into questions of form and history. 

What we have in common, 2016, Melted plastics and oil paint, 74.5 × 77 × 10.5 cm.
Image courtesy of Artsy. 

Chairman, 2021, Plastics and copper wires, 162.6 x 160.1 cm. 

Image courtesy of Simon Lee. 

You can find the artist here

  1. Patrick Bongoy
Image courtesy of Nataal.

Visual artist Patrick Bongoy was born in 1980 in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. In his work, he explores themes of alienation through migration, displacement, and the enormous human cost involved in the struggle for natural resources. Bongoy primarily creates his works from recycled materials like rubber strips and hessian sacking. These materials allude to the violent colonial past of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where Bongoy was born, and its lingering effects in the current day. 

Fitting into #1, 2020, Hessian, found rubber, acrylic, 132 x 150 cm.
Image courtesy of 1-54.
Sapped II, 2019, Fibreglass and Woven Recycled Rubber, 121 × 57 × 67 cm. 
Image courtesy of Artsy

He is represented by THIS IS NOT A WHITE CUBE. 

You can find the artist here

  1. Morné Visagie
Image courtesy of the artist. 

Born in 1989 in Cape Town, Morné Visagie is a South African artist, printmaker and curator. Growing up on Robben Island, the Atlantic Ocean that separated from the Mainland became a recurring metaphor in his imagination. Current and recent works are abstract interpretations of these themes, where colour and materiality are primary. The works share a persistent seriality, with the recurring image of a pool, the motif of tiles, and the repetition of form. Most tends towards fragility, towards suggested impermanence, made from tissue paper, recycled materials, or stained tarlatan cloth.

Arctic Summer, 2020, Recycled Methode Cap Classique (aka champagne from South Africa) foils, approx. 2.25 x 1.2 m. 
Image courtesy of 1-54.

Study for a Shinjū Blanket, 2022, Sewn nautical rope, 105 x 79cm.

Image courtesy of the artist. 

You can find the artist here

  1. Roméo Mivekannin
Image courtesy of afrique magazine.

Ivorian artist, Roméo Mivekannin (b. 1986) paints realistic portraits that celebrate the role of historic Black political leaders throughout the African continent. He adds acrylic and elixir baths to recycled linen sewn into patchworks, which become canvases through the act of painting.  Mivekannin’s paintings reach across time and geography, revealing past traumas while suggesting transformation. By often placing his own face on the Black figures he represents, Mivekannin tackles the anonymized, eroticized or objectified representation of Black people in Western art. 

Femme et enfant à la tunique jaune, Sénéga, 2021, Elixir baths and acrylic on free canvas, 181,5 x 124 cm. 
Image courtesy of Artsy
Le rapt d’Europe after Titian, 2021, Acrylic and elixir bath on free canvas, 180 x 190 cm. 
Image courtesy of 1-54. 

You can find the artist here

  1. Moffat Takadiwa
Image courtesy of the artist.

Born in 1983, Moffat Takadiwa is a Zimbabwean contemporary visual artist. Takadiwa’s sculptures look like conventional textile works from afar, but they are created from recyclable materials like small bits of human debris – computer waste, aerosol cans, spray bottles, toothbrushes, and toothpaste tubes-. From these materials that repurpose, he creates large-scale sculptural pieces. Once woven together, these small everyday objects comprise impressive organic structures evocative of jewel-encrusted excess. The artist’s choice of materials communicates his concerns regarding consumerism, inequality, colonialism, identity, and land pollution.

The Falling of Rhodes/ia, 2017, Computer keys, 250 x 230 x 45 cm.
Image courtesy of 1-54.
Re-Reading Korekore, 2022, found computer plastic computer keys, Shona dictionary cuts and calculator plastic keys, 255 x 360 x 10 cm. 
Image courtesy of Nicodim Gallery. 

You can find the artist here

Author

Iyanuoluwa Adenle is a graduate of Linguistics and African Languages from Obafemi Awolowo University. She is a creative writer and art enthusiast with publications in several journals. She is a writer at Art News Africa.

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