Interview with Goumbook

Art and recycling: the idea is certainly not new – think about arte povera or ready-made from the 1950s, or even earlier on how experts often found paintings “buried” under new paint: a form of canvas recycling for sure. But today it is taking the shape of a movement binding together a form of expression and a form of protest, and its literally everywhere;

In occasion of Quoz Fest 2019 under theme “Sustainability” it was our privilege to release an interview for Goumbook and chat about art and recycling!

Goumbook is the main reference on green practices for environmentally conscious people and businesses across the UAE and the Gulf region. It is an organization aiming at raising awareness on Sustainability and Green Living: Goumbook’s desire is to create a new global community, uniting experts, organizations, businesses and consumers from the Middle East and North Africa. Goumbook is a Social Enterprise, not a charity neither an NGO.

To know all about their initiatives and more please visit the website:

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Be part of the global movement and turn plastic waste to Art at the Quoz Art Fest!


Art and recycling: the idea is certainly not new – think about arte povera or ready-made from the 1950s, or even earlier on how experts often found paintings “buried” under new paint: a form of canvas recycling for sure. But today it is taking the shape of a movement binding together a form of expression and a form of protest, and its literally everywhere; whereas it be old plastic toys melted in trendy designers lamps or entire glass walls made of used bottles, huge chandeliers made of washed away plastic trash found on beaches, sculptures of drifted wood, weaving work made of plastic bags, as long as you can up-cycle some discarded materials, you can make art out of it: but is it really recycling? Or is it more of a form of whistleblowing? We wanted to know more, and so we have met with Lidija Katchakourian, owner of the AKKA project gallery showcasing here in Dubai young African artists, and who will participate in the upcoming Quoz Arts Fest with some very interesting “re-Think plastic” workshops :

1- Tell us a bit more about your « Re-Think plastic » workshops during the Al Quoz Fest: where did the idea came from, and who/what will be featured?

LK: The workshop idea took shape for several reasons. This year’s theme of Al Quoz Fest is “sustainability” in all its forms. At the same time, the current exhibition is focused on Kenya, which is one of the first countries that has officially banned the use of plastic bags. In the exhibition, beside showcasing Kenyan art we also present some projects of the country, particularly “The flip flopi”, a group of people who recreated a 9 meters-long Dhow (the traditional boat used widely in African and Middle Eastern countries), using discarded plastic flip-flop to raise awareness on the environment issues those poor quality disposable shoes (and single-use plastic in general) represent.

With these said, the idea of creating a workshop focused on plastics came naturally.

During the workshop on the 25th of January, we will invite people to shred plastic caps, that we are collecting at the moment, in order to transform them into other objects thanks to the machines that the Precious Plastic project has designed, and that some local realities have lent us. On the 26th January instead, we will show how to reuse the plastic bags to create coin wallets or purses.

2- What will become of the art made during the workshops, will there be an exhibition?

Visitors are free to take home what they create.

The remained shredded caps will be delivered to our partner NYUAD to be part of future projects.

3- Is this a recurrent message – recycling plastic, rethinking and reflecting on the excessive consumption of single-use products – that artists shown in AKKA gallery convey? And is this a conscious choice of yours, or more the result of a series of artists working in the same spirit at the same time, a convergence of the same preoccupations and desires?

Many artists that work with us, use up-cycled materials to make their works. Goncalo Mabunda and Cyrus Kabiru are among the best known internationally. Mabunda realizes sculptures using decommissioned weapons from the Civil Was of Mozambique and Kabiru loves to give a second life to all the objects he finds interesting. He is really famous for his body of work “Spectacles”. Artists are able to create masterpieces with the materials they have available, whatever those may be, and the fact that they reuse a lot of waste materials certainly makes us think about the reality we are living in. I find it very interesting that their works are able to communicate not only their beauty as artworks per se but also a social message.

4- Do you think artists born or working in developing countries are naturally more prone to use and work with recycled – as in free and abundant – material or are they more prone/attracted to political/environmental activism through their art because the land they live in is often more visibly damaged by pollution? And do you think it gives their work both common ground and a universal impact?

Contemporary art reflects the reality that surrounds it and the artists have the sensitivity to interpret it and repurpose it through any medium of their choice. The photographer Mario Macilau that we will exhibit in February, was born and grew up in Maputo where waste from different countries are collected. It is only natural that his photographs and projects gravitate around the people who live and work in landfills. One’s own history and origins become part of the artwork itself. I think that the message that artworks bring with them can become universal when the people who look at it find a connection with their own reality. Nowadays the problem of pollution is part of everyone lives and there is more and more awareness on the topic.

5- How much do you think art can have an impact on private and political decisions? Can you see the message going through the UAE public coming to the AKKA space, and how it affects them?

Art has the power to make you think. It has the power to arouse emotions in you that, if felt from many people, could change something in the world. Many artists both now and in the past have been political activists. Political and social criticism is part of art and is a way of criticizing that it is socially accepted and even showcased in cultural institutions around the world.

Our aim is to start conversations, to suggest a new topic to talk about. We are doing that with the art and culture of each country of Africa. We are aiming to be able to start a conversation about plastic pollution as well.

6- Any other environmental friendly artist or projects for the future you wish to mention?

We selected the artist Calixte for the first show at our new venue in Venezia – Italy. He creates animal and human masks by using everyday materials. From pencils to light bulb to locks, he is able to transform everything into a masterpiece. The soft opening will take place on the 21st of February during the famous “Carnival di Venezia” and his works will be just a perfect fit!

Author: Marie Jeanne Acquaviva del Giardino of Goumbook

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