Namibian artist renders old newspapers into artwork

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A Namibian artist is transforming discarded waste and old newspapers into artwork. Equipped with glue and varnish, Josefina Awala, from the capital Windhoek, uses old newspapers to create items such as storage baskets and jewellery.

"I collect old newspapers, re-sculpt and bring them into new forms," the 37-year-old artist said Sunday.

Awala found herself gravitating to the art of recycling newspapers into baskets in 2019, after completing a master's degree in International Contemporary Art and Design Practice in 2018.

"After studies, I struggled to secure a job amid a dwindling economy. It was a module on recycling that I enrolled in the final year of studies that inspired me to pursue recycling as an art for an income," she said. "This is now my lifeline."

With diverse artworks produced since then, the project has grown into more than just an income-generating venture.

Apart from the economic gains, transforming waste into artwork helps protect the environment.

"Using the old newspapers is cost-effective and reduces waste deposited into the environment," Awala said.

According to the artist, just by making one small basket, she saves the environment from three A3-sized print newspapers that could have been dumped.

"When I curate 30 baskets, you can imagine the bulk of waste offset from the environment," Awala said.

Newspapers and other waste are sourced locally, while others are donated by companies after word spread about her venture.

Awala has since curated about 500 baskets from old newspapers. Most locals and visitors buy them as souvenirs.

"I love my career more, recognizing that art is important, especially during this crisis amid limited job opportunities," she said. "Moreover, because of the positive impact of art on the environment."

Meanwhile, Awala also transfers her skills to empower other local artists, especially the self-taught ones in rural areas, to improve the quality of their products.

Other projects include grooming young talented children and enhancing unity among artists.

Despite challenges such as inadequate access to markets and a lack of support and understanding from the authorities, Awala said, she hopes to grow her venture, officially registered as Shanangolo Art Academy.

Meanwhile, she is also turning to other waste such as plastics and render them into poetic, decorative items.

"I am progressively combining a variety of artworks such as newspaper baskets, traditional baskets, and wooden products," Awala said.

She is also utilizing social media platforms to market her products and advocate for the protection of the environment. "The sky is the limit."

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