Wordle of Blog

Wordle: Art from Plastic Pollution

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Andrew McNaughton - Marine Debris Artist Extraordinaire - Watamu, Kenya

Andrew McNaughton and I met in a small grocery store in Watamu, Kenya in 2002 and have been great friends ever since. Andrew is a gifted artist and over the years I have been consistently amazed by the inspired art that Andrew creates. His art is made from flip-flops and other marine debris collected from the beaches of Watamu. Andrew's house is located right on the beach and his many hours spent walking the beach and seeing all the plastic pollution that washed ashore with each tide is what initially inspired him to try and find some creative use for it. Watamu is on the coast of Kenya and about 50 miles north of its second largest city, Mombasa. Mombasa is also home to some large flip-flop manufacturers, with over 20 million pairs of flip-flops being produced each year. This in part accounts for the large percentage of flip-flops that Andrew continues to find on the beaches in his community.
Andrew with another of his creations

Andrew is not alone in his efforts to collect the marine debris that is washing ashore on the beaches of Watamu. As his art work has gained in notice, and the problems of marine pollution have become better appreciated by local people, businesses, hotels and environmental groups, Andrew has become an ambassador for the Watamu Marine Association's Community Waste Collection and Recycling Project. The Watamu Marine Association (WMA) is an organization developed with the mission of promoting community development and empowerment, while at the same time advocating for the protection and preservation of Watamu's marine ecosystems.  Andrew and the WMA partner to both help clean and preserve the beaches of Watamu (a sea turtle nesting beach and popular tourist destination) and at the same time provide the raw materials for his continued creations. The WMA assists in employing women and disadvantaged young people in the regular collection of beach and village garbage. These same groups then sort and separate the marine pollution collected resulting in recycling of this gathered "trash." Items like flips-flops will be further sorted and set aside to be used by Andrew.
Sorting the beach collected "raw" materials for use

Additionally Andrew also partners with other WMA members from a local artisan co-op helping to train individuals to make additional items from the flip-flops that can be sold in the tourist markets. This collaboration has led to a local economy being generated around the collection and repurposing of marine pollution.

Andrew presenting Jack Johnson with a marine debris "Guitar"
I have worked with Andrew over the last few years to include him in some marine debris art exhibits featuring a collection of international artists that use their creativity to interpret the environmental problems of plastic marine pollution to the general public. At one exhibit in Hawaii he was able to present musician Jack Johnson one of his marine debris "guitars." Below are more images of the wonderful creative works Andrew has created. Currently some of his pieces can be seen in person at exhibits in Kenya and also in Oahu, Hawaii at MuuMuu Heaven.


Toothbrushes collected from the Watamu Beach

Close up of the above
"Guitar-Fish" beach collected driftwood inlaid with flip-flop
Furniture from Driftwood inlaid with Flip-Flop
Large Flip-Flop Outdoor Globes

"King Simba Malapa" - Lion commissioned by Born Free Foundation Predator Project

Students Learning from Andrew
Andrews work continues to inspire me and all those that view it. He will be part of a Marine Environmental Art Exhibit at the Boston Sea Rovers (one of the oldest American Dive Clubs) annual conference this 10-11 March. Andrew also continues to partner with the WMA and recently inspired students with his art and commitment to marine conservation in a workshop held at his studio for the students of the International School of Kenya. We are hoping to have him return to the US in 2013 to hold an independent Art Exhibit in Hawaii.