By Atang Matiea
Diverse in culture and rich in history, Makhanda is a small and beautiful town with elegant landscapes. Though the town is filled with beauty, the infrastructure, among other things, has deteriorated. But through the collaborative efforts between Makana Tourism and the National Arts Festival (NAF), small teams were tasked with cleaning up and revamping Makhanda. Obusitswe Seage, best known as the artist Bird King, is among these individuals.
Seage is a multidisciplinary artist from Johannesburg and currently resides in Makhanda. He works with his business partner Michelle Lowry, and they took me around Makhanda to observe how they collect material for their studio and positively contribute to society.
I followed Seage as he took me on a tour of the clean-up site, their recycle station, and his studio garden.
The studio garden is a little paradise made up of recycled material. The garden acts as a space to show that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Artefacts line up the garden’s pathway, making it seem like a studio. All the treasure collected is added to the garden by creating flower pots, toys for young kids, or cleaning utensils around the house and the yard.
Seage and his team endeavour to make Makhanda clean again. His approach is different from others because it incorporates cleaning, recycling, and mobile theatre arts; He believes his purpose is to help people to change and see the world differently, one trash can at a time.
“Cleaning up Makhanda shouldn’t be seen as something we do for ourselves but for the future generation,” Seage said as we chatted in his studio garden.
This project is close to my heart because I share similar sentiments to Seage, who believes that to make clean-up campaigns fun and engaging, we must first help people see recycling as an art. The recycling station is where all the magic happens; all collected treasures are colour sorted. Everything collected can be turned into a creative work of art. Imagination is the only glue one needs before a simple container is recycled and turned into a duck or the multi-tentacled octopus pool cleaner.
There are different recycling stations in and around the clean-up sites where materials are sorted according to colour sorted and either taken to the dumping site or incorporated into the studio garden.
Every morning, a briefing session is held for the teams. This session ensures that everyone understands their role, and more importantly, the briefing helps people express their feelings about the job and the different areas they work. Ultimately, high morale is maintained among the teams. Here, they understand the possibilities are endless as trash becomes a treasure.