20-11-2017 di Freddie del Curatolo
We live in a historical period where art, in addition to the intrinsic and historical value as bearer of beauty and stimulator of the mind, assumes an important social role; it fights for the protection of the environment and community between peoples.
Viewed this way, art is a vehicle for rediscovering love in all forms.
For Kenyans, creativity is the purest and "cleanest" form of income that promotes the beautiful place they call home. Residents of the coast particularly utilize art as an act of environmental stewardship.
The deleterious effects of plastic debris on the marine environment are more than evident. A large number of marine species are harmed and killed by plastic debris, which jeopardizes their survival, especially since many are already endangered by other forms of anthropogenic activities.
Marine animals are primarily affected through entanglement in and ingestion of plastic litter.
Other threats include the use of plastic debris by “invader” species and the absorption of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from ingested plastics. Less conspicuous forms, such as plastic pellets and “scrubbers” are also hazardous to aquatic life that makes the Kenyan coast unique. Protecting natural heritage, especially in a country that wants to make the environmental beauty a worldwide attraction, must be one of society's priorities.
Recognizing the connections between the environment, development and culture, Kenya recently banned the use, consumption and dispersal of plastic bags.
On a small-scale local level, art functions as a model of behavior and teaching.
Anglo-Kenyan artist Andrew McNaughton, who resides in the tourist resort of the Watamu coast, creates various forms of art from debris washed ashore to sensitize people and tourists on the protection of the planet. The materials such as flip-flops, lighters and toothbrushes, which pollute the sea and the beaches of this slice of the Indian Ocean are repurposed into sculptures, installations, paintings, furnishings and other useful objects. Walking through his house is like taking a tour of an environmental museum or laboratory where environmental awareness is a fact, but his sublimation in works of art are an incredible surprise.
Andrew worked as an interior designer in Nairobi for 35 years who frequented the coast, but never thought about saving the sea or the beings that populate the region: “Everything happened during one of my holidays in my Watamu seaside residence. Walking up and down the Turtle Bay beach, I noticed how much debris was brought from the ocean, a sign of man's neglect. In particular, every day I met a black and orange flip-flop sandal. The abandoned sandal was always there and looked at me with a challenging gaze. One morning I finally understood what message it was giving me. I picked it up and took it home. In a few weeks, I had bags full of flip-flops and started washing and polishing them with pumice stone, and the first works of art were born.”
Referring to great conceptual artist and designers of the last century, like Paul Smith and Frank Gehry, he creates chairs, tables, stools, even a bicycle using flip-flops with other recycled objects, such as wheel rims and the tires of tuk-tuk. Mc Naughton's products call on abstract colors and geometric shapes to catch an onlooker’s attention.
Other upcycled products include: glass, iron and plastic, as well as countless pieces of wood brought from the sea whose shapes worked by salt and currents are inspirational. Guitars, ties and many other imaginative pieces shine in the house-museum.
“I never tire of exploring new materials, and unfortunately everything arrives from Watamu beach. Everyday you can collect 30 or 40 kilos of sandals, and hundreds of plastic bottles. I take give them a new life.”
With bottles of plastic and glass, the recycling genius constructed palm-shaped chandeliers, decorated walls, and created sculptures illuminated by evening light. But creations with flip-flops certainly deserve a special mention.
“The secret of the flip-flops is the colors—the thousand colors of summer, sun, relaxation, and happiness. These colors put together have a great soothing power, all the more so if you think that their use makes the world better, healthier and cleaner.”
The artist actively collaborates with Watamu Marine Association and the recycling center of Dabaso, where his other works stand out.
These include a life size dolphin mural made with more than one hundred bottles of glass, a door composed of wood wedged between bottles of champagne, and lightly framed mirrors.
You can see other astonishing and genial Andrew's artworks visiting the exhibition set at the center in these days.
Mc Naughton has recently extended his collection to include animal horns. His current time is spent preparing an exhibition entitled, "Nothing But Pineapple," inspired by his love for the tropical fruit.
The exhibit features a gigantic pineapple created from recycled plastic swimming pool liners. But he also has another dream: "I want to carry out workshops with young local artists who want to learn the art of recycling, and make it a rewarding trade.” In this way, Mc Naughton gives back to the local Watamu community and raises environmental awareness.
(photos by Leni Frau, courtesy of Andrew Mc Naughton, thanks to Amanda Mae Korb for the english editing)
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