Artist uses garbage as the raw material for his work as a way of expressing himself about how the environment is being destroyed
Art is a competitive industry and every successful artist is expected to offer more than what the others give the audience. It helps if, as in Elly Niwatuhereza's case, what the artist has to offer is an avant-garde, evergreen passion. We are talking conserving the environment.
Environmental issues drive Elly's creativity. The 29-year old's artworks reveal his appreciation for preserving his surrounding in a better form than he finds them.
So it came as no surprise that his early December exhibition at the National Theatre was called "Eco-Arts". It was the first of its kind at the theatre.
Purely aesthetic pieces like wall hangings were featured alongside functional items like bedside rugs and doormats. As expected, they were pleasing to the eye. The bigger story, however, lay in what the eye could not see.
To create the pieces, Elly uses garbage.
He says he decided to use garbage as the raw material for his work as a way of expressing himself about how the environment is being destroyed.
Take the piece about lending a helping hand. It features a woman helping a young girl put a basketful on her head on a background of a path. The piece is done in finely woven bits of thread. The threads used in the piece are a collection of what is seen as the not-so-useful spun cotton that other art students from Kyambogo University campus dispose of as waste after their industrial work.
To create the woman and girl piece, Elly coloured the cut-offs and then cut them into uniform threads that he wove. Elly likes to keep things natural. The colours for the threads are of natural dyes. He extracts the green colour from phytorac dodecandra locally known as Luwoko. From the fish sap, he obtains the black colour while the brown is from tea-leaves. But he uses kavera polythene too. In the end, it is very hard for even the keenest eye to see garbage in the beautiful pieces.
Just like the wall-hanging, the artist's bed side rugs and door mats portray the same message. This time, however, he uses t-shirt off-cuts from tailoring industries.
Off-cuts are small pieces of clothes that remain after the tailors have shaped designs from materials. He embroiders them with motifs of traditional geometry shapes such as triangles, rectangles and kite-like contours.
Before Elly took an interest in them, the off-cuts used to be burnt, releasing smoke and carbons into the atmosphere. Elly says he feels touched whenever he finds heaps of tailoring off-cuts and old clothes stuck in trenches.
For him, old t-shirts are another raw- material from which to make rugs. In fact, he says, he has developed a network of elderly women who provide him with old t-shirts.
Elly is one of the 14 artists who have taken up the cause of conserving the environment. They operate under an association called Eco-Arts Uganda that was started by Bruno Ruganzu who was Elly's co-exhibitor in the National Theatre show.
Ruganzu exhibited a map of Uganda piece made out of discarded green, water-bottle bottoms. The piece vividly provokes one to make valuable use of waste. The green colour, he says, calls the masses effort in the preservation of Uganda's green.
Ruganzu derives his inspiration from a mothers love.
He says just like women nurture future generations, he feels a responsibility to ensure that his grandchildren find a better environment To him the mushrooming manufacturing plants pose a challenge of garbage disposal. Ruganzu says recycling offers a solution.
Prof. Gamaliel Mugumbya, an art lecturer at Kamapala University, Ggaba agrees that recycling of especially plastics is the way to go. The buveera (polythene) should not be banned, he says.
Beatrice Anywar, the shadow Minister for Environment lauded the Eco-Art initiative. "The idea should roll out to cover the countryside where most people are affected by climatic change," she said.
Anywar warned that if climate mitigation policies are not tailored to bring the ordinary people on board, the plans will remain on paper. It is for that reason that the Eco-Art enterprise makes Elly and Ruganzu's artworks unique.
written by Margaret S. Maringa, January 05, 2011
written by Soccer Jerseys, April 04, 2011