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Posts Tagged ‘recycled’

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Photo: Landfill Harmonic
Tania Vera Hertz showing off her recycled violin in a documentary about poor kids in Paraguay.

Today’s story is about people in Paraguay who built instruments out of recycled materials and taught the children of impoverished landfill scavengers to play. That is the nugget, and a lovely nugget it is. But as I learned at Wikipedia, fame brought conflict among the adults involved. You can read about both aspects of the story below and see what you think.

Ken Jaworowski writes at the New York Times about the documentary Landfill Harmonic, which “starts in Cateura, Paraguay, an impoverished town outside Asunción, the country’s capital. There, at an enormous landfill, thousands of slum-dwellers support their families by sifting through trash to find things to sell.

“Favio Chávez, an environmental engineer, came to the area to help with a recycling program. That failed, but he stayed to teach music to children. Instruments were so scarce that Mr. Chávez, with help from a resident, Nicolás Gómez, created them from materials found in the garbage heaps. Those include violins made with metal cans, a cello built from an oil container and a drumhead fashioned from discarded X-ray film.

“Mr. Chávez and his students formed the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura and gained fame once video of their playing these scrappy instruments went online. Soon, children who’d never left their town were traveling the world to perform.

“It’s an inspiring tale — if it were fiction you’d dismiss it as unbelievable — and Brad Allgood and Graham Townsley, the directors (Juliana Penaranda-Loftus is listed as co-director), capture some endearing moments. …

“The children of Landfill Harmonic are wonderful to watch. A section in which David Ellefson, bassist for the metal band Megadeth, comes to visit them is downright adorable. (The orchestra later performs with the group at a concert, and it’s excellent.) Here and elsewhere we see barriers disappear — those between genres, cultures and languages become meaningless. For everyone involved, there’s nothing but joyous music.” More at at the Times, here.

Wikipedia adds history and describes an ongoing controversy about who started what when.

“The orchestra originated in the ‘Sonidos de la Tierra (Sounds of the Earth) program (created and directed since 2002 by Luis Szarán) and Procicla a recycling project of the Alter Vida NGO. Szarán founded the Sonidos de Cateura (Sounds of Cateura) music school on July 7, 2006, and its first workshop, sponsored by the geAm NGO to build recycled instruments, was held on May 24, 2007, luthier Carlos Uliambre. …

“The music school began with the recyclers’ children after Szarán donated ten guitars bought with proceeds from a tribute he received at Salemma Mall. A group of children between 8 and 12 years old from the Sounds of Cateura school was presented at the regional seminary of Youth Orchestras of Sounds of the Earth in Acahay [in 2006]. …

“The first group of Sounds of the Earth musicians with recycled instruments made their debut at the former Sheldonian Theater in Oxford, England as part of the Skoll Foundation’s World Forum of Social Entrepreneurs on March 26, 2008. …

“In October 2011, Sounds of the Earth announced on its Facebook page that Orchestra of Recycled Instruments coordinator Favio Chávez had left the program. Chávez announced the formation of the Recycled, with Sounds of the Earth musicians from Carapeguá and Cateura playing recycled instruments, two months later.” Lawsuits were in their future.

Wikipedia may have more information than you want about the ins and outs, but if you are interested. click here.

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Aren’t inventors great? There certainly seem to be a lot around these days.

Of course, I am still a bit high on the Mass Challenge Awards last night, thrilled about Erik and the other deserving winners, like the nonprofit GRIT (Global Research Innovation and Technology), which makes an inexpensive wheelchair for use in the Third World.

Here’s another cool invention, from Israel: a cardboard bicycle.

Ori Lewis and Lianne Gross write at Reuters, “A bicycle made almost entirely of cardboard has the potential to change transportation habits from the world’s most congested cities to the poorest reaches of Africa, its Israeli inventor says.

“Izhar Gafni, 50, is an expert in designing automated mass-production lines. He is an amateur cycling enthusiast who for years toyed with an idea of making a bicycle from cardboard. …

“Cardboard, made of wood pulp, was invented in the 19th century as sturdy packaging for carrying other more valuable objects, but it has rarely been considered as raw material for things usually made of much stronger materials, such as metal.

“Once the shape [of Gafni’s bicycle] has been formed and cut, the cardboard is treated with a secret concoction made of organic materials to give it its waterproof and fireproof qualities. In the final stage, it is coated with lacquer paint for appearance.

“In testing the durability of the treated cardboard, Gafni said he immersed a cross-section in a water tank for several months and it retained all its hardened characteristics.

“Once ready for production, the bicycle will include no metal parts, even the brake mechanism and the wheel and pedal bearings will be made of recycled substances, although Gafni said he could not yet reveal those details due to pending patent issues.” Read more from Reuters, here.

Check this video posted by Gadizmo.

Baz Ratner /Reuters /Landov

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We watched a couple unusual documentaries last night and last weekend. Often by the time films are available on Netflix, all I remember about the review is that someone highly recommended them. I know only that we will get a big surprise.

“Marwencol” and “Waste Land” were amazing surprises. They turned out to have something in common, too — the idea that art can lift people from despair, help them see things in a way that opens up their world. What was different between the movies was that for the troubled guy who created art in “Marwencol,” showing his work in a NYC gallery is quite beside the point of his healing process and probably the last thing he needs.

The movie is beautifully executed, but one has the sense that the young filmmakers who think the protagonist will benefit from the big-time art world don’t understand psychology very well.

The protagonist of “Waste Land,” successful Brazilian artist Vik Muniz, although equally idealistic, understands his subjects better, having experienced a life similar to theirs in his impoverished childhood. He decides to combine an art project with helping “garbage pickers” in the world’s biggest landfill, in Rio. Getting to know a few of the workers really well, he develops tremendous admiration for them and their deep dignity. He pays a few to work with him on giant portraits on themselves, portraits that play on the themes of some famous paintings. They use recyclables to complete the images, which are then photographed and shown in galleries and at auction. The proceeds come back to the people and help them both individually and collectively.

But the biggest transformation is not monetary but rather what Vik anticipated based on his own life experience — that by seeing things in a new way, they would get new ideas about themselves and their possibilities.

 

 

 

 

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