Kenyan company turns trash into works of art at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

World Today

More than a million people are expected to enjoy the Smithsonian Folklife festival here in Washington DC over the next 10 days. The festival’s aim is to bridge cultural divides among nations. This year, the festival features China and Kenya. While both countries have rich histories that date back centuries, a modern problem in Africa is getting a lot of attention. CCTV’s Sean Callebs has more.

Kenyan company turns trash into works of art

Kenyan company turns trash into works of art

More than a million people are expected to enjoy the Smithsonian Folklife festival here in Washington DC over the next 10 days. The festival's aim is to bridge cultural divides among nations. This year, the festival features China and Kenya. While both countries have rich histories that date back centuries, a modern problem in Africa is getting a lot of attention. CCTV's Sean Callebs has more.
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A small display at this year’s Smithsonian Folklife celebration is quickly becoming one of the biggest hits, it’s a Kenyan company called Ocean Sole.
Jonathan Lenato, Ocean Sole: “This is an XXX large giraffe, so actually it is almost life-sized, so it takes two weeks to make one.”
How Ocean Sole makes these sculptures, is the real story.
They come from trashed, old flip-flops that literally wash up, and pollute beaches along the eastern coast of Africa. Indian Ocean water currents basically funnel trash all along Kenya’s coast. Jonathan Lenato, Ocean Sole: “Inside this is Styrofoam, so we have to put the flip flops all around and then we use glue. So you can stick the flip flips around.”

Each week Ocean Sole buys tons of flip -flops that clutter beaches and city slums. The foam rubber sandals are a huge threat to marine life. Choking fish and keeps small sea turtles from making their way into the water.
Jonathan Lenato, Ocean Sole: “This one is from the ocean, you can see from the salty water and these are from the slums.”

Ocean Sole recruited craftsmen, who used to work with wood. Now they turn their attention, and skills to a brick of flip-flops.
Sot Jonathan Lenato, Ocean Sole: “I think it ( the sculptures) is amazing. I think not only is it serving a purpose, but it’s creating something that is incredibly beautiful.”

The colorful sculptures, are sold here and online throughout the world. Sabrina Motlay is the Smithsonian Folklife Festival Director, she says: “It’s really about, again making the space that we live in healthy and whole and being creative in the process.”

Perhaps the only disappointing news is Ocean Sole won’t be running out of flip- flops to recycle anytime soon. Each year, the company goes through some 400 thousand pairs of trashed sandals , which, considering the amount of garbage can seem like just a drop in the ocean
Sean Callebs from CCTV, Washington reports.