Ghanaian artist Ed-Franklin Gavua is taking his country’s rich history of mask-making and combining it with an ecological message to create masks out of man-made and natural waste. Gavua made his first mask in 1995, and they’re now displayed in private offices, homes, galleries, and hotels in Africa, Europe, and North America. He calls the collection of masks Voice of Waste.
Why It Matters
Waste management is a critical component of a healthy urban center and one that countries across Africa have struggled with. As more people migrate to the cities, slums and crowded living spaces expand and the amount of human waste increases. Due to the informal nature of the work that millions of Africans engage in, waste removal becomes an increasingly difficult challenge. Garbage left to rot poses a public health risk and is a deterrent to investment. Recycling programs like Gavua’s mask-making may not be applicable on a large scale, but presents an alternative method of grappling with the issue of trash removal, especially as more standard methods like incineration can pollute air quality and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
One Voice Can Make a Difference
Gavua makes his Yiiiiikakaii African masks using a mix of natural debris, such as dried leaves, and man-made trash, such as waste cardboard and plastic bags. He does workshops to spread his recycling message, and hopes that the Ghanaian government will take heed of his efforts and provide programs for schoolchildren that teach waste management and ways of making an income from garbage recycling.