It has been a fruitful year. I have had the opportunity to work with people of all ages and cultures, from Australia to Latin America, sharing ideas on how to reuse plastics creatively. I have also learned new techniques, some used to give a new life to these materials and another as a safer way to dispose of them in our world.
The last workshop for this year, was in Caracas, Venezuela, where I have been visiting for the past two months. I was invited to give a demonstration and a talk to a group of artist in a very unique space, El Nuevo Circo de Caracas. It was built in 1919, functioning as the main bull-fighting ring of the capital. The arena was also frequently used for boxing and wrestling competitions as well as for entertainment (movies, theater and concerts). The last of these abominable bull- fights exhibitions was held in 1977. Around the same time a bigger arena was built for the citizens of Caracas and this old structure soon became obsolete and was in complete disuse until recently.
In 2009 it was assigned to be an endogenous Center for the Cultural Development of the City. It is now a public space used by artist from diverse fields to work and to share their experiences with the community. It was a pleasure to gather in this space with the participants who attended.
Being back in Venezuela has been heart wrenching. I had grown unaccustomed to the reality of developing nations: the astronomical amounts of garbage on the streets. The problem in Venezuela is a reflection of many underlying issues from politics to lack of education. The political war between the government and the opposition is so senseless that cities like Merida where the mayor is from the opposition and the Governor is from the official party are in a complete deadlock, the inhabitants have to suffer the consequences; Mountains of smelly trash covering the city.
It’s not just the cities, the countryside is equally infected. I was visiting the tiny town of Gavidia high in the Venezuelan Andes. It is a profoundly beautiful landscape, 3260 meters above sea level. A valley surrounded by a majestic mountain skyline of the Andes mountain rage. It’s “pristine” river runs across the plane, where a small agricultural community lives. I was shocked during my walks with the amount of candy wrappers, chip bags and junk food litter carelessly thrown everywhere.
I instantly remembered the story of Susanne Heisse, whose organization in Guatemala “Pura Vida” came up with a wonderful solution to this precise problem. I had recently researched and wrote the article “Bricks of Hope” about Susanne. The amazing story of Pura Vida Foundation was fresh in my mind. Susanne’s spark of inspiration was the discordance of all the trash with the natural beauty of her surroundings in lake Atitlan, Guatemala. She managed to involve all the children of the community who collected all the wrappers and plastic litter and packed them into PET bottles. These bottles where later used as brick to build schools and houses for the community. Her organization has not only helped the community become cleaner and more conscious of their environment but also more aware of their bodies and the nutritional content of the food they eat. The Eco- brick is a fascinating new concept for me. I love the idea of using a bottle as a container for large amounts of plastic rubbish. I was happy and surprised to see how much litter can be packed into a bottle. I have no knowledge of building structures but when I see the amounts of trash our societies produce I find this idea of compacting large amounts of trash into a bottle excellent for containing and discarding in a safer manner this form of pollution.
The only good thing about the large amounts of plastic bags that are given out in Venezuela, is that they are very colorful, I decided to put to good use the new skills I had acquired this year to create this lamp. During my stay in Venezuela I have shown my work to many and hopefully have inspired them to start creating.
May we find and share, light and love, among the mountains of plastics trash we have created in our world. Wishing you a Happy Prosperous New Year !