Few of us would believe that the intricate and delicate “Plastic Gold” jewellery, created by Saharawi refugees who live in a remote corner of the Algerian desert, is made from recycled plastic bottles using only hot sand, a knife and a drawing nail board.
This technique and the tools that are needed were designed by Florie Salnot, a product designer with a degree in history of Arts and Anthropology from the Sorbonne in Paris and a MA in Product Design from the Royal College of Arts in London, who has always aimed to employ design to solve social issues in her work.
She has done just that in her “Plastic Bottle Project”, where waste from plastic bottles are shredded and twisted around metal nails on a board of wood – resulting in the beautiful series of jewellery that not only will enable the Saharawi refugees less dependency on humanitarian help but also give them media for self expression in a place where resources are scarce.
The Saharawi are a former Nomadic people who represent a fusion of Berber, African and Arab roots, and for many centuries called the coastal desert area, which is known today as the Western Sahara, home.
The sixteen-year war that broke out in 1975, when Morocco and Mauritania collectively invaded Western Sahara upon Spain’s exit, is the most important cause behind the large-scale displacement of the Saharawi population. This territory was annexed by Morocco in 1975, causing approximately 160,000 people (according to various NGOs) to live in exile in a remote area of Algerian desert in camps run by the Polisario Front. With virtually no work or resources in the camps, the Saharawi people are dependant on aid for survival.
The aim of the “Plastic Bottle Project”, which was enabled thanks to the help and sponsorship of Sandblast charity (www.sandblast-arts.org), was to offer Saharawi people a sustainable way for generating income and therefore reduce dependency on humanitarian aid. It has also provided them with a technique and tools with which they can design their own pieces and renew their local craft traditions in an original way.
The jewellery has been a success and six models from The Plastic Gold Project are now available at the Pianoprimo design shop in Milan, which will help to estimate the interest of the jewellery on the European market as well as create fundings for the next trip to the refugee camps. The aim of these future trips (planned for spring 2012) is to set up, with the Saharawis, a production of jewellery to be sold for exportation, and therefore secure an income for the people.
We love the originality of this product and its infinite beautiful. Focusing on a part of Africa that may be often overlooked Algeria’s Saharawi tribe bring to you with the support of Florie and the Sandblast project something fresh, new and stunning.
Share your thoughts on this art form from North Africa.
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See Florie’s video here.
Author: Ella Soccorsi