We are now familiar with the idea of recycling to reduce waste and environmental impact. However, recycling and re-use as creative activities have a much older and more universal history. This aeroplane is made from wire and various aluminum containers previously used for pesticide and tomato paste. It forms part of a larger display in the Museum that celebrates the inventive use of available materials by people across the world. It sits alongside objects such as lamps made of mango juice cans, baskets made of bottle tops and newspaper, and sandals made from offcuts of rubber tyres.
The student who acquired the aeroplane, Tania Kaiser, lived in the Kiryandongo refugee camp in Uganda in 1997 as part of her anthropological research. The population of the camp had originally come from Parajok in the Torit district of Southern Sudan, and was a mix of Acholi from that area and previously displaced Sudanese refugees. Kaiser recalls, ‘There I was, in my new house, looking around and asking myself, “What do people use for a dustbin?” Only later did I understand what a silly question that was.’ Kasier soon realized that, with so little to work with, nothing was wasted and everything had a use. In the camp, recycling was not an expression of eco-awareness but a fact of life, although that didn’t mean that aesthetics were ignored; creativity and design often played an important part in making a new colourful, funny and ingenious object from old materials. The aeroplane was made by Kenneth Gong, Clement Obote, Philip M. Otim and Franco Olur in a blacksmith’s workshop in the camp, and Kaiser noted that the yellow aerosol cans of ‘Doom’ insecticide used for the plane’s fuselage were particularly popular, both for their bright colour and their images of bugs and cockroaches.