Nigerian artist turns old soles into mosaic portraits
Picking through a field of garbage, Nigerian artist Eugene Konboye hunts for particular type of trash: plastic flipflops that he turns into multi-coloured mosaic portraits of his community.
Both an artist and environmentalist, Konboye says recycling flip-flops targets one of the worst plastic polluting items in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, with more than 210 million people and growing fast.
Only a tiny fraction of waste is recycled in the West African state, where each year, 200,000 tonnes of plastic spills into the Atlantic, according to the UN Industrial Development Organisation.
Using a shovel, Konboye piles up a huge mound of flip-flops he has collected into a corner of his studio.
He then cleans them and cuts them into squares — some squares are the size of a typical ceramic wall tile, others the size of a large postage stamp.
The tiles are then affixed to a board, becoming pixels in a larger picture.
“Flip-flops are one of the major actors in plastic pollution,” Konboye said. “Almost everybody has at least a pair in every home.”
The artist creates portraits of the local community in Abeokuta city in southwestern Osun State. Sometimes he is paid for his work and gets commissions from some clients.
Portraits on his studio walls slowly emerge from a pattern of the multi-coloured flip-flop pieces he arranges on backgrounds.
“First is to get my materials and I put them out in the sun and rain before I bring them into my studio,” he said.
“I sort them according to their color, according to their tone, then I cut them.”
Mounds of trash on roadsides or on empty lots and landfills are a common sight in Nigeria, and recycling is rare.