Sunday 13 January 2013

Waste to art … Everywhere

NATURE’s creativity, even in waste, has kept a seven year-old project alive, moving from one city to another across the country and beyond.

Christened Art Is Everywhere — a slogan that tells people of the artistic content in their immediate environment — the project made its Lagos debut recently.

On a visit to the Visual Arts section of Creative Arts Department, University of Lagos (UNILAG), where 11th edition of the show was held, one was nearly lost in thought: the setting was a sharp contrast to the regular art studio environment.

“It’s waste-to-art,” one of the coordinators, says, attempting to rescue the visitor’s disturbed thoughts. Yes, Waste-to-Art, so the theme says, but the art flavour or feeling appears to have been lost to the wastes.

Artists, in solo or group efforts, have done waste to art several times to uphold the sacrosanct of art, yet Art Is Everywhere has been different. At the point of trying to search for the art content, however, every second of further stay changes the visitor’s perception. From the wastes of electronic and electrical materials being assembled into sculptural pieces to the plastic waste and others into figural renditions, the art content gradually becomes visible, except that the emphasis is about waste recycling.  

With about 25 artists who have scavenged the aquatic and mainland of urban Lagos to get materials for their works, it seems art has taken a space in environmental management. According to the initiator, Ayo Adewunmi Art Is Everywhere appeared on the Nigeria art scene in 2005, in collaboration with Alliance Francaise, Enugu. The focus of the initiative, he says include rediscovering waste as a resource for artistic creation and draw attention 
to environmental issues apart from providing avenue for training young artists and the less privileged on how to make a living from recycling items.”
Reflection, by Akin Onipede, one of the works from the Lagos debut of Art Is Everywhere project 
In just two years, the concept has gained much acceptance, hence the expansion in scope. In 2007, it changed into what he describes as a traveling workshop. This, he discloses, “aims at accessing waste materials available at different geographical locations in the country while drawing attention to environmental issues.”

And the art-to-waste frenzy has been spreading to such places as Enugu, Jos, Kaduna, Zaria, even across the borders to Banjul in Gambia, where one of the editions was held few years ago.

FOR the UNILAG event, like-minds in art on environment such as Ayo Aina from Kaduna; Ike Francis, a lecturer at the University of Port Harcourt;
Chike Obeagu, art teacher at Federal University Lafia, Nasarawa;
Dr. Peju Layiwola and Akin Onipede of University of Lagos; and Okechukwu Eze, a Lagos- based artist found a platform to express their activism.

However, the resilience of waste recycling focus of the project could be a challenge if the pieces of art are not able to sustain their space as collections; ending up as another wastes in the future.

As relative as aesthetic content or value is, the initiative may not be bothered with art appreciation in the regular context as there are other benefits to explore. Such values include opening up the creative minds of young artists to several possibilities; providing avenue to train artists and the less privileged to make a living from recycling and generate exchanges between local artists and their counterparts from other countries to highlight environmental degradation.”

The international interaction benefit came in 2006, Adewunmi recalls. It was Art Is Everywhere’s participation at African Fibre and Fashion Accessory show in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Tony Odey and Okechukwu Eze, he says joined him at the event where they shared the Nigerian art’s thought on environment and waste with other participants.

From 11 participants; nine artists and two instructors in 2005, Art Is Everywhere has grown to 20 participants. Having covered as many as four locations across Nigeria it could grow to be a wider forum for creative relevance outside the art space, particularly in the area of environmental activism.

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