Rufai Zakari’s art, made solely from recycled materials
Growing up in Bawku, a town in the north of Ghana, Zakari became acquainted with recycled materials from a young age. He’d join his peers searching for empty milk tins and plastics, which they would use to invent toy cars and sculptures. “Once we’d gathered all the materials, we would sit in circles and make toys, and it was so fun because we were just driven by passion,” he recalls. “We didn’t think we would make money out of it. To us, it was a hobby, something we enjoyed doing.”
It wasn’t until he moved to Nima, a Muslim community in Accra, that a more fully-fledged interest in art took hold. After junior high school, he began an apprenticeship with Hashim Hussein or Mozzay, one of the oldest artists in Nima, who heavily inspired his processes, and his journey continued at the Ghanatta college of art where he majored in painting.
“I didn’t paint for a year after graduating from college because I wanted to become financially stable first,” Zakari says. “When I returned to it, my practice changed because I didn’t just want to paint, I wanted to talk about the issues affecting my community. So, in pursuit of that, I had to leave my studio and move to the streets. I started as a graffiti artist, using my art to talk about social issues like sanitation and the environment.”