The arts, more than operating as a tool for social change, can also be seen as a platform for highlighting the various issues surrounding local and global environmental change. With 22 April being World Earth Day, we took the opportunity to round-up a few of the African artists on our radar who are using their art to highlight or speak back to environmental concerns.
Francois Knoetze is a Cape Town-born performance artist, sculptor and filmmaker. Knoetze’s work incorporates video, performance, and sculpture, as he retraces the life cycles of discarded objects and explores junctures between material and social histories. His Mongo sculptural suits make use of these discarded objects to highlight social and environmental issues such as commodification, consumerism, objectification and more.
We’ve featured the work of Hannelie Coetzee in Creative Feel quite a bit, lately, and for good reason, too. Coetzee, who’s based in Johannesburg with a studio in Lorentzville’s Victoria Yards complex, works with discarded natural materials – wood, stone, glass, and more – to create site-specific public works that very often speak back to, or highlight environmental issues. The artist is also pursuing an MSc at the Wits Animal, Plants, and Environmental Science School with an interest in honing science as a medium in artworks that connect people. She’s also a co-founder of the NPO Water for the Future which is currently tackling a clean-up and study of Johannesburg’s Jukskei River.
Merging art and design with an emphasis on sustainability and environmental awareness, South African Porky Hefer is well-known for his Nests which are both beautiful and functional. With a wide-range of plant and animal inspired pieces, these works take direct inspiration from South African nature and very often focus on the creatures that are in danger of becoming extinct, either due to environmental destruction or poaching.
Dakar-based artist Fabrice Monteiro was born in Namur and grew up in Benin. The photographer moves between photo-reportage, fashion photography, and portraiture in his work, and is perhaps best-known for his series The Prophecy which presents a view of the world consumed by human-made waste.
Mbongeni Buthelezi is a Johannesburg-born artist who works with plastic in a novel way through heating and adapting the material to create colourful portraits of daily life. Merging art with a passion for recycling, Buthelezi has become well-known and highly praised for his way of working with plastics, creating beautiful works of art while raising awareness about the growing amount of plastic waste in the world.
This is a growing list. If you can think of any African artists addressing environmental issues through their art, feel free to let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org