Back in the day, when artist Mbongeni Buthelezi was growing up in KZN, he loved making art. His favourite materials were acrylics, oils and (best of all) watercolours but he didn’t have the budget to buy them so, instead of giving up his dreams to become an artist, he decided to work with plastic waste that he found lying around.
In the process he created a whole new art technique – making collages out of colourful plastic pieces by melting them, with a heat gun, and sticking them onto a surface made of roof plastic.
Today, Mbongeni’s work is exhibited in galleries around the world, from here at home to Egypt, Canada, England, Australia, the Czech Republic and the USA. Each of his extraordinary works contains up to 5 000 pieces of waste and, aside from making a name for himself internationally – as a pioneer in the art world – he’s also found a powerful way to give his work purpose and draw attention to the global plastic crisis.
“We all need the environment in a state that would be conducive to all of us. This is just my contribution. Instead of letting plastics fly around everywhere, the best I can possibly do is to collect it and make sure I create something useful out of it.”
What a cool example of how tough situations can be turned into something positive. When you’re feeling overwhelmed by the lockdown, or struggling to stay motivated, try to remember Mbongeni Buthelezi. He might not have planned to end up as an environmental activist, or world famous artist, but he found a way to keep doing what he loved – even when things seem hopeless – and look at him now.
Net Buddies, while the lockdown makes it impossible to travel around, can you repurpose something you have to solve another problem? Tell us about it!