The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) held the first in a series of four Waste-to-Art Youth Workshops throughout November on Saturday, November 7th. Supported by the Embassy of the United States of America,and the Pacific Development & Conservation Trust of New Zealand, IUCN has been working in conjunction with the Department of Environment, Lami Town Council, Suva City Council and the Department of Lands to involve a large group of students in the process of conservation education and creating sculptures to install at the former Lami dump site, which is now in the process of being converted into a public recreational park for the greater Suva community.
Nakita Bingham conceived of the youth initiative and the integration of clean-up events and workshop components during her work in the field of marine conservation. “It’s important to teach the leaders of the future the responsibility of taking care of the environment and being able to express that care through a creative project,” Bingham explained. Her coordinated efforts with the Sustainable Energy Programme of IUCN have helped bring additional focus to building capacity for youth leadership and broader understanding of the actions needed to institute sustainable practices for generations to come.
To bring this vision to life, ReCreate Fiji artist Warwick Marlow was engaged as workshop facilitator and site curator for the Waste-to-Art initiative. His long-running efforts to upcycle disposables into functional, fashionable art pieces have given him a fantastic and fitting ability to bring the incorporation of waste materials into the creative process at a scale students were able to understand and immediately begin putting into practice. The efforts of the day yielded a veritable reef worth of sculpted coral pieces, the wireframe for a large sea turtle, and dozens of cut-out sea creature from amidst the waste materials collected, sorted, and cleaned from the International Coastal Clean-Up Day held earlier this year on September 19th.
Alongside presentations by Bingham, Marlow, and IUCN Energy Programme Officer Andrew Irvin, the students were also engaged in a discussion following a presentation by Coral Reef Alliance Program Coordinator, Alisi Rabukawaqa. Rabukawaqa contributed heavily to raising awareness of conservation principles and priorities with the students. An imperative part of the Waste-to-Art project is building a dialogue with the youth and helping them understand environmental issues before imparting the creative skills to communicate their knowledge and role as agents of change.