an Absalom rebellion in Abia

EARTH DAY 2023

Chido Nwakanma uses Earth Day today to reflect on Amuche Nnabueze, the artist that combines art and waste management

As the global community marks Earth Day, my mind goes to a woman with a passionate commitment to the sustainability of the environment. Amuche Ngwu Nnabueze deploys her art to her concern for the sustainability of the domain. She pursued this concern to earn a PhD in Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Dr Amuche Nnabueze is a fine artist who now also teaches the subject at her alma mater.
Her work seeks to improve solid waste disposal, handling and management in Nigeria, starting from Nsukka. It is also to curtail indiscriminate waste disposal using creative processes in South-Eastern Nigeria. Ultimately, she applies the creative arts and crafts approach to reducing indiscriminate waste handling.

Dr Amuche Nnabueze has been concerned with environmental issues for 20 years. I met her in Port Harcourt, where she worked with GTZ as a graphic artist. She then moved to UNN, still serving as a Graphic Artist with administrative responsibilities in an academic environment. After her PhD, she converted to the academic faculty. She is a designer and web developer.
Her passion, however, is in the environment. That passion birthed Sculpted Basket Project, the initiative through which she documents her work and reaches out to society.

Sculpted Basket

Art meets the environmental movement in Sculpted Basket. Amuche teaches and designs crafts projects aimed at remediating the environment. She uses “artistic and creative processes to create and raise awareness about the adverse effects of indiscriminate waste disposal.

“I reach out to educational and municipal policymakers one-on-one and the masses through social media. I teach waste separation starting from the point of generation (PoG) using locally made baskets.”

She also “upcycle and teach upcycle of non-decomposing solid wastes like paper, plastics, clothes, and plastic bottles to school children and young people where they learn how to use these waste materials instead of throwing them out indiscriminately.

“Through these activities, I create networking opportunities between solid waste generators, users, waste workers and managers to understand the process from different perspectives.”

Mrs Nnabueze imagines art beyond the visual appeal. She is now a noted campaigner and member of the global sustainable environment movement and was in Glasgow, Scotland, 2021, for the convention on sustainability.

She teaches sculpture, cultural and creative arts. She is a member of Parents For Future Nigeria and is actively involved in expanding PFF in Nigeria and as an organiser in Parents For Future Global.

She also pioneered the Sculpted Basket Project (SBP), which uses art to educate people about environmental concepts and sustainable lifestyles.
She recalls, “During my undergraduate years, I consistently studied the impact human activities made on the urban area against the quiet and green rural areas. I initiated the Sculpted Basket Project in 2007 after gaining an MFA from Nsukka Art School, working on the project “Utilising Urban Wastes As Media For Sculpture”. My major project was revamping a quadrangle located in the faculty from a waste green site to a sit-out garden using non-decomposing throw-aways. In 2007, the Sculpted Basket Project conducted a basket-making workshop where we raised awareness.”

Sculpted Basket? Hear Dr Nnabueze: “Ikunye mmiri na nkata, “pouring water in a basket”, is an adage in Igbo which refers to making a futile effort. The concept of the Sculpted Basket Project is to use that challenge to achieve something tangible. To patch up baskets so that they can contain water is a literary interpretation of what it set out to do. The enormity of work needed to achieve a fair society in our impoverished environment is a driving force here. My visual concept of baskets contains a problem-solving unit capable of creating multiple impacts in a society with multiple problems.”

Amuche Nnabueze, MFA, converted her passion into a doctoral dissertation. Her work was on “The Utilisation of Urban Solid Wastes for artistic purposes as a tool in environmental management in Nsukka Urban Area”.

What public problem does she seek to solve? Improper waste disposal and management. “There are parastatals of the state government tasked with waste management, yet there is a huge solid waste management problem. Only about 40% of the generated solid wastes in cities find their way to designated places for collection. Only 40% are properly collected due to poor or lack of requisite equipment and staff to meet the ever-growing demand on the municipal facility, and users dump them on open dumpsites. These wastes are uncollected and may stay longer before they start rotting and constituting health and environmental problems. Sometimes the heap may be left to grow into busy street roads.

However, we can reduce these problems if these wastes are properly handled from the generation point by separating wastes and handling them according to type.”

Post-Glasgow, Amuche continues to pursue one of the goals of her PhD project to improve the primary school Cultural and Creative Arts curriculum to incorporate teaching about recycling and environmental management. She will reach out directly to schools and the local and state governments.

“The Sculpted Basket Project will need to network between schools to create reliable data ranging from location to Creative Arts schedule in their timetables. It needs to develop teaching aids. A mobile creative workstation (a mobile studio) will be essential since most schools are not adequately equipped for teaching and learning arts. This mobile workstation will need a desktop publishing capacity and worktables with various tools. Outcomes from this phase will continue to contribute to establishing an arts and crafts centre from which the Sculpted Basket Project can engage other felt needs in society”.

Editor’s Note

You can check Dr Amuche Nnabueze’s craft and journey on these sites.
www.tearfund.org/tilz/footsteps_75/local_environemnt_local_crafts; www.sculptedbaskets.blogspot.com; Globalcrit.tumblr.com; www.unn.edu.ng; www.ccalagos.org; or artspeakafrica.blogspot.com; globalcrtiticlinic.wordpress.com; and books.google.com.ng/books/ What we want is Free, Second edition: Critical Exchanges in Recent Art edited by Ted Purves, Shane Aslan Selzer