Art for Social Change

A few weeks ago we had the most inspiring talk by Alex Mativo, Founder & CEO of E-LAB and student at the African Leadership University (ALU). As part of our Education for Sustainability (EfS) programme we invited Alex to St Mary’s College Rose-Hill, one of the EfS focus schools, to talk to the upper form 6 students as part of their entrepreneur class. I truly hope the students realise and can value the life transforming insights that Alex provided them.

He explained the importance of knowing why you do something, even if nobody believes in your dream. He started his story by telling us about the devastating time during the Kenya crisis when so much violence broke out. He was only 11 years old (11 years ago) when this happened, and he lost so many of

his friends and family in that violence. Already at that young age he decided to do something with the hardship and suffering he saw all around him, and used the bullets that killed the people of his community to make Art out of this

Alex then continued his story by sharing with us how he left his prestige enrolment at Duke University, USA, to go back to Kenya after he heard about all the e-waste being dumped in Kenya and how this made him so angry that he got determined to do something about this.

Sadly so much of the e-waste produced in America, Europe and China is all being dumped in Africa under the guise of shipments of 2nd hands electronics. Then when this gets burned on the dumping side in Africa, the toxic waste is tremendous and so many children and adults are affected; heir life-span reduced by at least 25 years if not more, and all kinds of added complications as well. And all this because it is not ‘illegal, as Alex explained’. Well, Alex and I, both of us being social entrepreneurs, made a commitment yesterday to see how we can work together to use the business sector in Africa in its role as advocacy and as part of good corporate governance to put pressure on government and the business communities at large, to help stop this.

When Alex realised what is happening he went back to Kenya and left everything he had at Duke University, and decided to turn that waste into Art, as such cleaning up those dumping grounds and giving back the land for the children to play on, for safe schools to be built, etc. By making Art he also raised awareness and educated people from each of the continents to what is going on – truly Art for Social Change, with a very clear purpose and cause.. By selling back the waste to the ‘rich and influential’ in America and Europe he made a full loop in the system that did not exist before. Basically getting America and Europe to buy back their own waste, now converted as art. Brilliant strategy.

We also thank Nicola McKenzie, from Investec Bank Mauritius Ltd, the official sponsor for St Mary’s participation in our Education for Sustainability programme for coming all the way to be with us to listen to Alex. Investec Bank is a good example of what it takes to engage in Impact Investment, the kind of engagement necessary for ensuring real change happens through investment in the right people and organisations.

Alex has just received the Queen Young Leaders Award in the UK. As part of our EARTHwise Future Stewards – Empowering Youth Initiatives we are bringing more people like Alex together with those who benefit from their story and building a support network for Social Innovators and Entrepreneurs. We will feature their stories here in these blog articles on Stories of Impact.

To learn more about Alex and his work, see his recent TEDx ALC talk here:

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