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“Optical illusion”: Essilfie Banton is creating beauty from trash

The artist and visual arts teacher is using "borla" as material for his art in a bid to protect the environment

Essilfie Banton is a Ghanaian artist and visual art teacher who creates intricate collage pieces from discarded plastic waste. He uses trash, otherwise called “borla” in Ghana as material for his art for two reasons: to protect the environment and to check pollution in the country.

Speaking to Asaase News, Banton described himself as a creative person whose concern “is about solving problems in a unique way.” He noted that his worry about the poor management of trash in Ghana inspired him to “place value on trash as an artist.”

“I try to study existing solutions to a problem and characterise it with a different concept in solving problems to make it look new and interesting for sustainable development,” he said.

He also observed that “a lot of solid waste is in the environment, and sometimes this waste which is non-bio-degradable is burnt; causing air pollution and resulting in sickness, which is also another problem.”

“Interpreting life from a different angle”

Banton collects various pieces of solid waste including plastic wrappers, bottle tops, cans, toys, and spoons, among others from the environment, to create striking collage portraits of prominent personalities in Ghana and the African landscape.

Up close, one perceives his finished pieces as a confusing mass of “just borla”; but a second look from a distance, reveals a rather dramatic piece of art. When asked why he used this technique, Banton explained that his work “mainly employs optical illusion.”

“It gives you a different interpretation of life from a different angle,” he said.

“When one looks from afar,” he continued, “our world is very beautiful but when we get closer, we see the mess we have caused the earth. This is the language being spoken by these artworks. So contextually, all’s not lost. Let’s collect the pollutants back from the environment, put them together, and rebuild the mother earth. We are the world.”

Banton is a graduate of the University of Education, Winneba where he’s currently pursuing a Master’s in Philosophy in Art Education. He teaches at Mpraeso Senior High School, in Ghana’s Eastern Region. Among his pieces are the portraits of singer Wiyaala, Ghana’s President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, and Ghana’s former presidents, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and Flt. Lt. J.J Rawlings.

Plastic pollution, Ghana’s bane

For several years, Ghana has faced the challenge of poor waste disposal. Many communities in the country lack the proper means to safely dispose of plastic waste. Although the country generates over a million tons of plastic waste each year, only about two to five percent of this waste is properly recycled. The rest ends up in landfills or accumulates in the environment, and nearly 30% ends up in the ocean.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has called for waste management and plastic pollution in Ghana to be addressed with urgency.

The government of Ghana has since launched several sanitation initiatives and campaigns with support from Zoomlion, Ghana’s largest waste management company, to help rid the country of filth.

Nana Abena Boakye-Boateng
Asaase Radio 99.5 – tune in or log on to broadcasts online
Follow us on Twitter: @asaaseradio995

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