ROBIN Opperman and Jackie Sewpersad with their artwork made from waste collected in Glenwood. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad African News Agency (ANA)
ROBIN Opperman and Jackie Sewpersad with their artwork made from waste collected in Glenwood. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad African News Agency (ANA)

Maths adds magic to creative recycling

By Duncan Guy Time of article published Sep 4, 2021

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THE left brain and right brain are part of the mix in recycling art in Glenwood.

Qualified maths teacher Robin Opperman, who taught art during his education career, and Jackie Sewpersad, who qualified in fine art but taught computers, collect waste in their suburb and turn it into wares worthy of export to France.

Their version of a bead curtain is decorated with bottle tops, which are connected to one another with the plastic coverings of acupuncture needles.

“If you don’t pay attention, you can end up making something that reinforces bad stereotypes about recycling,” said Opperman.

“We take special care to design them so that people see the beauty in them before they notice that they are recycled.”

Recycling as art is sometimes perceived as unattractive, and the pair use their “logical” side and “creative” side to design intrinsically beautiful work that really does remove waste from circulation.

Their enterprise also makes flowers with paper donations, often in the form of outdated maps, charity books with pages missing which cannot be resold, and old music sheets.

Opperman had been an art teacher for 13 years at a special needs school from 1993 where he became used to working with zero budget.

He then started a non-profit organisation that had a shop at uShaka for five years. However, his deal with the sponsors was such that crafters would have to go out and start their own businesses.

He became one such business but joined up with Sewpersad who had an art studio in Bulwer Road, Glenwood.

They now operate in the suburb, renting their studio in Sewpersad's lounge.

While demand for their paper flowers is mostly local, some also make it to France, said Opperman.

Opperman and Sewpersad made annual visits to design expos in Cape Town where they met their French buyer, a British woman who lives in the rural town of Le Grasse, in France, where she has a designer boutique-style shop.

"Pre-Covid she would travel the world buying unusual art."

He said that the fact that the bottle tops and needle covers were authentic waste ‒ not simply bought in bulk from a factory ‒ appealed to the French market.

The first of their recycled products was chandeliers, which is also what the importer in France first bought from them.

“The French ’get’ the value of recycling, if done properly,” he said.

“In South Africa, a mat made from recycled material might end up having the dog sleep on it. In France it might end up in the entrance hall.“

The Independent on Saturday

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