Latifah Idriss is concerned that Ghana is slowly being engulfed by plastic waste, even more that society seems desensitised and apathetic towards the ever growing blight. This consciousness project is based on the belief that design can evolve into habitable forms that seek to meet the needs of the environment and the culture it represents. The aim of the consciousness project is to go beyond architecture to bring society face to face with the daily deprecation of the environment. A growing concern for the environment is apt because currently, it stands in our faces, no citizen of the world can say they are uninformed about waste or of the impending plastic doom in today’s society. The planet is warming and the repercussions are not subtle. Nature is crying out, the rivers and beaches are flooded with hogwash and according to an article by the National Geographic, humans eat a thousand bits of plastic per year, most of which comes from the fishes contaminated with microplastic, plastic melted into our food from single-use plastic, drinking from plastic and inhalation.
All and sundry around the world are concerned about the fate of our planet and Ghanaian youths are not immune. Random Photo Journal is joining the world-wide conversation on plastic management and reached out to Latifah Iddriss to explore her thoughts on lifestyle changes, and also about what we consider an attachment to nature in today’s society. For a couple of years now her work as an artist focuses on environmental activism and other trash conscious projects in Accra, she is doing her part in enlightening the public on the dangers of plastic engulfment. She is also a trained architect, an entrepreneur and a photographer.
Your work shows an attachment to nature, how has the environment affected your work?
“I don’t think I see it as an attachment actually, it is essential to existence. I have never really grasped why a person could become indifferent or unbothered by the space their lives are framed inside of. Sometimes I think space and the individual are one, and the environment around us frames everything we do. It is simply absurd that I would choose to exist less efficiently and so in that light, I cannot understand why society today chooses to, with such intention, to destroy the environment. My work draws from my life. The environment has always been important to me in that regards. Not just because I am more sensitive to the effects of surrounding on a different level but because I was motivated to love my environment existence.“
Explain what you felt the moment you became conscious of the plastic problem and how deeply it affects us?
“By the age of 2, it seemed I was already aware of the spatial disorder and by the time I was 5 I understood that my health was severely dependent on the environment around me. So I came to disdain filth and that drove me to try and understand it. How do you decide to hate something you do not understand? Life in a sustainable shell exists at the intersection of life and death, the balance of it. Things live so that others can die and vice versa. That is the working equation. The thing with plastic is that it has refused to die. We let something so inanimate upset the scale until it reached a critical point. Yes, plastic is great for making human activity convenient but at what cost when it contributes nothing to more important life, the earth, vegetation, animals. I am at a point where I feel like my efforts will never be enough and now I can accept that, but at the same time, I understand giving up will be even more hurtful, especially when it is towards something you love.”
Thirty-four countries have moved swiftly to ban single-use plastic; the ban includes restrictions on manufacturing importation and retail distribution according to UNEP. It is stepping forward to a cleaner and more sanitized Africa. Ghana and Nigeria are yet to move in regards to these laws and also seem to have more trash piles as Africa’s highest points of tourist visitations. If you took a look at the gutters it is quite easy to see how single-use plastic is the problem and easy to know that the solution to riveting the scales of sustainability is to ban single-use plastic.
“After that maybe we could look at plastic in general and set a sustainable measure to equalize its negative effects. As a designer, I can appreciate plastic as a material due to its amazing qualities. Plastic offers convenience. Other banned goods offer something else. I think when sustainable options are presented at the same accessible rate as plastic, no one will mind or even look for it. Single-use plastic exists in the truth of being the most convenient, useful, useless thing. People just want the solution provided to them since we are so detached from the environment but you cannot protect something you do not understand the value or appreciate.“
Based on your experiences how have people taken your conscious project of bringing to light the ills of plastic in today’s society?
“As an artist my work is built on the whole of myself, just like myself, it grows in response to the things I do and become aware of.“