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Artist interview series: Aniefon Ben Edet

Aniefon Ben Edet is a Nigerian visual artist whose repertoire includes painting, photography and mixed media. He studied art and specialized in painting at the University of Uyo. He often uses found objects and waste material, upcycling them into objects of art. He is also an art teacher and teaches both children and adults. He was an Art Vancouver exhibitor in 2023.

A set of colourful art pieces (boxes, stools, and more) made by upcycling trash by Aniefon Ben Edet
Figure 1: The Oba And His Court Objects by Anifon Ben Edet (courtesy of the artist)

How did you start your journey as an artist?

“Art has been like a gift to me. I was interested in art right from my childhood. Books and comics were a big influence on me in my early days. However, I wanted to be different from other artists, and I began to look at different materials, which led me to upcycling. I do not like following the crowd, and I want to be distinctive in my art. I hail from Nigeria, and I like telling stories about my family and the Nigerian society.”

How is your creative process when it comes to upcycling?

“To be honest, I am like a blank sheet of paper when I start. I generally visit the dumpster and do a good search. I believe that the dumpster is a goldmine because you never know what treasures you will find. There is always something special hidden there. Forms then start to take shape and lines lead me throughout the process until I reach the final destination. The materials I find and their shapes significantly influence the outcome.”

A black and white line work piece by Aniefon Ben Edet of a barefoot figure holding something
Figure 2: African-inspired artwork by Aniefon Ben Edet (courtesy of the artist)

What messages do you aim to convey with your work?

“The main message in my upcycled works is that a lot of what people throw away can be reused, instead of being discarded. People are often attracted to my upcycled works, and I want them to understand that what was once dirty and trashy can be changed by application of aesthetics. Not every item of trash is actually trash. We can easily make those items valuable or presentable again.”

“I also want to spread the message through upcycling, that we need to stop environmental pollution of all types [such as] air, water and land. We only have one planet Earth, and we need to keep it safe for ourselves and our future generations.”

How did the pandemic affect you as an artist?

“The pandemic reshaped me as a person. It compelled me to conduct online classes using Zoom. I taught both kids and adults, and it brought me close to people across the globe. It was a new experience for me but one that broadened my perspective.”

Is there any goal or milestone that you are looking forward to achieve in the future?

“My goal is to spread the practice of upcycling globally. It will help reduce both pollution and poverty, especially in places like Africa, which are the recipients of trash from all over the world. At the end of the day, what we need is good health and a good environment.”

By Vikram Naik


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