Wamda Yousef sits in front of the baskets and plates she’s made out of newspaper.
“In the beginning, I thought it was difficult to learn, but gradually I learned to do all these artistic shapes only by [using] newspapers that were left by my aunt – she loves reading newspapers,” Yousef says.
“We used to throw them out, but now we have no waste papers at all because I [use] everything at home.”
Yousef, 36, is displaying her work at Khartoum’s first recycling festival, held to encourage people to be creative with their rubbish and keep the city tidy.
About 5,000 tonnes of waste a day is generated in Khartoum state by 6 million people. But only 65% is collected by the authorities.
A lack of resources to pay for rubbish collection has been blamed for the pile-up of waste.
Most uncollected rubbish ends up being burned by people fed up with it accumulating in front of their houses. There is no recycling system in Sudan, except among some food factories.
The festival, held in Qureshi Park in February, was organised by five local NGOs and an entrepreneurial organisation. Organisers say about 1,000 people attended and 30 people – mainly women – showcased the chairs, tables and baskets they had made out of paper, car tyres and plastic bottles.
“We love the environment and want to raise awareness about its importance,” says Maisson Matar, co-founder of the festival and CEO of Fandora (meaning the role of art in the community in Arabic), a project that trains ex-prisoners and others within local communities to make accessories out of recycled paper, plastic and metals.
“We also aim to teach poor people to increase their incomes from their garbage. I was inspired by the Egyptians who held a similar festival in Cairo last year. We do this to make the country better and to help vulnerable people.”
Yousef, who has two children, received support from the Superwoman network in Khartoum, which supports survivors of gender-based violence. She was introduced to eco-art by Fandora.
“I didn’t sell much in the festival but I believe I can increase my income in the future when people know more about it. It’s a new thing now in Sudan,” she says.
“After we trained women who are victims of violence, we realised that their self-esteem has risen because they feel they are doing good stuff, and they feel valued,” says Matar.
The NGO Ihtimam was one of the groups organising the festival. It provides environmental education for school children and university students, and is also running a campaign to make Khartoum beautiful. Members of the group spent the day asking people how they could make the environment healthier and cleaner.
“We participated in this festival because we are concerned about the environment and we feel responsible towards it,” said Ismail al-Kafi, an agricultural engineer from Ihtimam.
“Most people have clean houses but they don’t care about the streets, and keeping their work places tidy.”
Mohamed Abdel-Azeem, 35, who coordinated the festival with Matar, is the founder of the Nile’s Drums Band, and uses drums made from recycled materials to raise awareness of environmental concerns.
“I realised we can get people’s attention by the strong voices of the drums. I once went to a village on the bank of the White Nile river with a group of environmentalists and I beat the drum, and with that strong voice many people came to listen to the message of the environmentalists.”
A group of people from the youth organisation Say Foundation showcased their paintings made from recycled materials. Some made images from wood and paper, others used traditional Sudanese cloth.
Walaa Majdi, 26, who was born deaf, used watercolours to create six paintings to display at the festival, which were then framed using bits of waste from her home.
“Our participation in this festival is a way to express ourselves and … Say Foundation helped us get communication skills. I have become more confident since I joined [the foundation].”
Ninety children at the festival were taught to make flowers and boxes out of pasteboard and newspapers. “I am very happy to participate in this festival, because I learned new stuff, and made this box to keep my pencils in,” says eight-year-old Fatima Tariq.
Matar admits more publicity could have attracted more visitors, but says: “I think the festival has succeeded and all the participants were really happy, they said.” She says she wants 26 February to be a national day for the environment in Sudan.
Read article at The Guardian