Flipping Waste into Art


Ocean Sole video

Recycling has always been a way of life in Africa. In Egypt, My grandmother mended, re-used and re-purposed everything – cloth, cans, shoes, you name it. Wherever I’ve been in Africa, I’ve marvelled at the talent and imagination that goes into recycling to make toys, mats, lamps, household furniture and goods and so much more.

And wherever I’ve been on beaches in Liberia, Gambia Senegal, Egypt, Kenya or Zanzibar, I’ve found myself picking up rubbish and debris that had washed there from all over the world. Invariably, tucked into the sand, tangled in the seaweed, I would find remnants of pink and blue and green flip flops that had made long journeys, littering oceans and marring beaches. All I could do was dump them in bins, knowing they will end up as acrid, toxic smoke close to slum areas where the poorest families live, clogging children’s airways and stinging their eyes.

Thanks to Khonsu, I discovered another solution for all those discarded flip flops.

Ocean Sole is a Kenyan social enterprise that is turning washed up flip flops into beautiful art. Founded by Julie Church, Ocean Sole provides a decent living for tens of artists, and supports hundreds of women who lead the beach clean-up. The artwork is gorgeous – as is the video. I am really looking forward to learning more from them on my next visit to Kenya. Just don’t know how I didn’t find them before!

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