MASKING A PROBLEM: Advantage Y&R and Greenpeace have a campaign creating African Masks from trash.
MASKING A PROBLEM: Advantage Y&R and Greenpeace have a campaign creating African Masks from trash.
MASKING A PROBLEM: Advantage Y&R and Greenpeace have a campaign creating African Masks from trash.
MASKING A PROBLEM: Advantage Y&R and Greenpeace have a campaign creating African Masks from trash.
MASKING A PROBLEM: Advantage Y&R and Greenpeace have a campaign creating African Masks from trash.
MASKING A PROBLEM: Advantage Y&R and Greenpeace have a campaign creating African Masks from trash.

Deadly garbage landslides make solutions to waste even more urgent, writes Marchelle Abrahams.

Did you know that South Africa produced nearly 67 million cubic metres of waste a year? This is according to recent Greenpeace figures.

It’s a problem that’s reaching dire proportions on the African continent with the onset of a new environmental threat: deadly garbage landslides. Just last month, hundreds of deaths were reported in a huge rubbish landslide in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. The decades-old landfill site buried makeshift homes.

Last week Sri Lankan rescuers were digging through heaps of mud and rubbish that collapsed on homes near a garbage dump. Hundreds had been living in the working-class neighbourhood on the fringe of the towering dump in Meetotamulla, a town outside Colombo, when a huge mound collapsed, Associated Press reported.

Gauteng, notably Johannesburg, generates the highest volume of waste in the country. Soon SA could find itself in the headlines for the same reasons. There is good news though – between 50% and 80% of this waste is recyclable and compostable.

Nearly 10 percent of every product purchased contains packing material which is normally dumped. If the material is recycled, it will save tons of paper, energy, money, human resources, time – and potentially lives.

In response to Africa’s growing waste problem, Namibian advertising agency Advantage Y&R and Greenpeace have collaborated on an awareness campaign.

“We noticed a trend among young Namibian artists of recycling everyday waste products and transforming them into beautiful objects,” said Toufic Beyhum, creative director at Advantage Y&R.

“This gave us the idea of creating African masks from recycled trash. African masks are familiar cultural items, and to see them formed from garbage creates a powerful image of how pollution can re-define our culture.”

Two of the featured artists are Petrus Shiimi and Saima Lita, both from Namibia.

Saima Lita

Shiimi was born in a small village in the north of the country called Okalindi. His first forays into art were drawings in the sand outside his home, which eventually culminated in a Visual Arts diploma from the Windhoek College of the Arts. He then developed his unique style, born of his use of innovative non-art materials such as wire, nails and waste products.

Lita, from Onkani, was passionate about art as a hobby in his youth. He quickly developed his natural talent at the College of the Arts in Windhoek, and today specialises in creating sculptures from random objects.

DRIVING RECYCLING: Petrus Shiimi uses innovative non-art materials such as wire, nails and waste products.

Greenpeace launched the campaign as part of their ongoing efforts to raise awareness of pollution and recycling, to instigate positive change. Their belief is that if attitudes towards waste and recycling are not changed now; trash will choke our continent.

“We are committed to stand up for waste management, together with the African communities who will be most affected by the devastating implications on our oceans, ecosystems and future generations,” concluded Greenpeace’s Lerato Ngakane.

Turning trash to art is nothing new to South Africa. In 2013, Cape Town started the Waste-To-Art Market. The city had come up with the idea of converting waste in an effort to stimulate economic opportunity.

The market showcases innovative ideas on how to create art from materials which end up in landfills. Each year, the market has one centrepiece, which stands between the pillars of the Iziko Museum in the Company’s Garden.