Thursday | March 5, 2015

From trash to treasure

Published:Sunday | November 11, 2012
Boxes made from discarded wood.
Artist Charl Baker's creations made from discarded materials
Say cheese: A photo frame made from a piece of broken electric pole, given a touch of copper wire to create 'My family tree'.
Charl Baker with the tea boxes she made.
Mazola wa Mwashighadi with 'Mombasa', a vanity box he created, inspired by the town he grew up in Kenya.
Mirror frame made from twigs and branches by Mazola wa Mwashighadi.
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Amitabh Sharma, Contributor

The idiom 'One man's junk is another man's treasure' fits perfectly on artists Charl Baker and Mazola Ma Mwashighadi, who are transforming discarded items into artefacts and pieces for everyday use.

What does a broken light pole, copper wires, discarded packaging material or a rusting flywheel of a bicycle mean to most of us ... junk?

Baker and Mwashighadi, like farmers sifting through mud to reap the most beautiful foliage or the sweetest smelling flowers, have managed to transform them into a photo frame, vanity boxes and a wall hanging.

"I use different kinds of wood, used in construction, I go to woodwork shops and pick up discarded wood, or pieces of metal from the garage," Mwashighadi said.

"As a child, I used to draw and sketch, and was always fascinated by baskets and
rings from coloured wires," Baker recounts. "Everything can be
something, things that people throw away and see no value in, we
recreate."

Both artists come from different
backgrounds, but are bonded by similar interests, and like their
creations, have deep-rooted connection and harmony with
nature.

"I have always been inspired by nature, trees -
they have a story to tell," says Baker, who dropped the idea of going
to medical school, gave up a corporate career and pursued her dream as
an artist.

It was dull and grey in Canada, she
recalls, and it was a calling of home, she says - the warm sunshine,
blue skies and the liveliness, that made her come back to
Jamaica.

"I spend a lot of time at the beach looking
for shells and corals," Baker said. "Children, too, inspire me, I am
fascinated by kids and the purity of their
thoughts."

Kenyan-born Mwashighadi, brings his
multicultural life experiences to his work. "I was born and brought up
in a Christian home," he said. "I lived with Muslims in Mombasa, I have
dreadlocks; I have friends who are Indian; I am looking at the
connection, the past and present."

The two artists
said that they had been influencing and helping each other but never
collaborated, it was Baker's love for boxes that brought the confluence
of the creative minds.

"I asked him (Mazola) to make
me a box so I could put my touches to it, but what he made was ornate
and it would have been a sacrilege to add something to it," said
Baker.

"The dialogue and conversation between us
translated literally out of a box," she
quipped.

Through their conversations came the idea Out
da Box, an exhibition held on October 31 at Decor VIII gallery that
showcased functional artefacts made of recycled material, recreated with
Baker and Mwashighadi's creative touches.

"Most of us
are boxed in," Mwashighadi said, "We need to come out and look at life
in a different perspective."

Twisted copper
wires

Baker's love for tea and the trees is
encapsulated in twisted copper wires spreading out as tree branches,
decorating the boxes. "They are something of a typical Pandora's box,
but do not (give) a negative connotation," she says. "Boxes are
fascinating, they can be a treasure chest, vanity cases or tea
boxes."

The artists' quest for recreating symbolises
harmony, they say, and any oddity finds a way to be represented as a
piece of functional art. "I do stuff with bottle caps; make jewellery
out of them."

Mwashighadi says he is a free spirit and
likes to experiment with whatever is in harmony with nature. "I do
furniture, I make sculptures," he says. "I play the flute and harmonica .
I am an artist and I am having fun."

Both artists say
their work is a representation of the metamorphosis and harmony between
humans and nature. "We continue to build and transform," Mwashighadi
say. "The materials, in whatever form we can find, can become
philosophical."

amitabh.sharma@hotmail.com