From plastic and others

Sculptor, visual arts lecturer Sakari Kannosto arrived in Villa Karo's residence in December with his welding equipment, which required flight permits. The idea was to look at the dimensions of the global waste problem in Benin and organise a recycling sculpture workshop for local children. Two sculptures were born: “Afrikana”, which symbolises the waste problem and its solution and “Dieu peut tout”, which comments on the role of man as a force that changes its environment.

Kannosto has been making recycled art in Finland for a long time, and many of his works have a consumption-critical undertone. He teaches form understanding to metal, wood, clothing artisans at Omnia Vocational College and organises sculpture courses for children within the framework of OZZY RY. Before leaving for Benin, Kannosto had become acquainted with the waste problem in India, among other places.


“I was especially interested in going to West Africa and Villa Karo and seeing how the environmental issues are present there. However, most of the waste was recovered, and Benin did not look as messy as India. On the other hand, there are far fewer people there. ”


Plastic bags and the pollution of the seas

Sachet water is the cheapest beverage for sale in Benin and a low threshold business that does not require large assets. At best, the water filtered into the bag is cleaner than well water. From an environmental point of view, disposable water bags aren’t a sustainable solution.


“It's a question of waste that the sea also brings to the beach. Throwing water bags into the ground is accustomed to and is not seen as a problem. It seemed contradictory that the beach we cleaned with the children to collect the bags for the sculpture was cleared out but at the same time, the front of the school was full of bags and no one seemed to be bothered. ”

Progress has been made since Kannasto left and the school has had a collection point for plastic bags since the beginning of the year.

For an unfamiliar pair of eyes, the amount of rubbish is a horror, but in addition to the aesthetic disadvantage, there are also more serious problems with plastic waste. Among other things, animals suffocate in the bags and plastic accumulates in their bodies, plastic shreds form large rafts in the oceans, plastic accumulates in river embankments and causes physiological changes in the soil. This is why environmental sensitisation is important, but on the other hand, a litter-free landscape is also part of the waste problem.


 “In Finland the waste problem is easily forgotten. Once when you throw your trash away, it’s out of your sight and mind.”

When you don’t see the trash, we don’t realise how much waste we actually produce. A Finnish person accumulates ten times more plastic waste than a Beninese person and the ecological footprint is of another level. In the waste management system, the traces of an unsustainable lifestyle disappear from the eyes and the rubbish is destroyed in the most harmless way possible, but disadvantages still occur throughout the life cycle of the products. For example the manufacturing, transportation and disposal of plastic bags uses materials and energy and produces emissions. Finland seeks to become a waste-free country, so everything could be recycled. However there’s still a long way to go. The consumption culture in Benin is a newer phenomenon. Waste has started to accumulate here as well, and problems with it and its handling are beginning to arise. Perhaps it would be possible to avoid a disposable culture, and on the other hand to enter a closed material cycle without unsustainable intermediate steps.


“In many cases, however, it is worthwhile to repair streets and roads only when they are already unusable,” Kannosto complains and asks, “could something be done about the waste problem other than to show that such spending may not be good for us and educate people about it?”

The issue is crucial, because the ENVIRO project cannot build a functioning waste management system, only sensitise people to waste. However, the pressure for change to correct structures starts from knowing, talking and wanting to change things.


In the absence of waste management, waste that can be recovered or incinerated can mainly be distinguished from the rest. The rest can be used in the May workshops and together with local forces to come up with ways to recover the waste. And most importantly, avoid unnecessary debris altogether.


“Recycled arts and crafts could have untapped potential in Benin. Only a few recycled material goods were visible in the markets and one would think that at least there could be a demand for recycled souvenirs, such as tin cans, and the use of pieces of cloth patchwork that would suit a certain group of tourists. ”

A chicken as the symbol of waste problem

It was natural for Sakari to inspire the children to consider their environmental relationship in Benin as well. He organised a three-day sculpture workshop for local high school students together with the coordinator of ENVIRO, Djoussou Blanchard, local artist Richard le Dinosaure and Villa Karo’s trainee Charlotte Bärlund.


“At first, the idea of teaching recycling in Africa felt weird: now go to Benin to run a workshop on recycling, when the idea was to go learn the art of recycling from professionals! What would I have to give them? But the idea of playing as well as sharing alongside art gave me the courage to pull a recycling workshop for the locals. Working together, sharing customs and culture produces new ways of seeing, which can also be important in solving environmental problems. ”


Kannasto is pleased with the workshop. Both the teachers and the students enjoyed the workshop and at the same time they enjoyed cultural exchange. At first it was difficult to get the other adults interested in playing with the students, but eventually, they were also excited to draw and play games. 


“Amazing course, everyday we played together! recalls Kannosto.

As a result of the workshop, a massive “Afrikana” sculpture was created from construction steel waste, drinking sachets collected from the beach and flip flops. The plastic chicken pecking along the village track has become an attraction admired around the village.


"The topic that encapsulates the waste problem was found in chickens, which are at the center of everyday life in Grand-Popo, as food, as a sacrificial gift, as well as land-scraping waste mills that peck everything from the ground, including plastic that is harmful to them."

Cultural exchanges will also continue. In the Benin workshop, Sakari showed ENVIRO course participants a powerpoint presentation of the courses he organised in Finland. The children were excited about this and wrote letters to Finnish children, to which they now respond.


Dieu peut tout.

With the theme of sustainable development and ecology, Kannosto also had time to sculpt another work in Benin. Stepping into the shores of the Gulf of Guinea, one feels small, the sea big. The scenery opens to the south and the Atlantic reaches all the way to Antarctica. Plastic bags and other rubbish have drifted onto the beach sand - sometimes turtle carcasses that have collided with oil tankers or suffocated in plastic bags. That made Kannosto pensive.


On the sides of the fishermen’s boats shone phrases such as “DIEU PEUT TOUT” (God can do anything). The phrase remained in my mind as I walked on the beach and as I thought about to the world.


"God has created something whales and even bigger - a man with the power to destroy that sea and those whales, eventually himself."

A sculpture depicting a whale “Dieu peut tout” was created from an old chalkboard and palm trunk transported by the sea.


Kannosto has continued to work on the theme of whale sculptures in Finland with his ceramic series “DONE”, which deals with people's desire to travel and experience fast moments of pleasure at the expense of nature and animals. He also dreams of returning to Benin with his father and son to carve a sequel to the series together and hopes that even while travelling, one will use one’s power to save the environment, not destroy it.




From plastic and others, Monsieur Sacré Sakari Kannosto

Muovista tehty valas.

Dieu peut tout