05 Dec 2013

The Recycled Christmas Tree Project

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This year, the stART Foundation has undertaken the idea to build a 10 metre high Christmas tree made from recycled bottles. Vandita Varjangbhay dreamt up the idea, and was solely responsible for the planning of the entire project. Artists on board were Flinto Chandia, who designed and built the steel structure onto which the bottles were attached; David Makala and Mwamba Mulangala were the mentoring artists over the workshop period where the kids put together the chains of bottles which would then be fastened onto the tree. David Makala was also involved with installing the tree at its final location.

Planning began in March; such a huge project needed serious funding and help from as many sponsors as possible. Our principal sponsors were Coke & Zambian Breweries. The process of building the tree was a long one; it began with the designs of the structure as drawn by Flinto, and the acquiring of steel to make the structure from Sonar International. The tree was designed in three parts – the bottom, middle and top of the tree. The circumference of the bottom of the tree is 5 metres in diameter, the subsequent parts being smaller to achieve a tapering effect. The three parts have been designed to sit one on top of the other, being held in place by a steel pole in the center of the tree which is secured into the ground.

The Art Workshop in which the chains of bottles were made extended over three weekends. There were 25 kids in total, from 5 different organisations in Lusaka for disadvantaged children. They were assisted by the six Peer Educators in training. The workshop was held at the Swedish School, and thanks to Rooneys, the kids were safe and dry under a marquee for the duration of the workshop. It was here that they made chains and chains of bottles on copper wire, which were then tied onto the steel structure. The bottles were all green, and all recycled. Vandita collected hundreds and hundreds of bottles from recycling warehouses and hotels – six thousand bottles were needed to complete the design.

Once completed in the workshop, the three parts of the tree were carried on an abnormal load truck – accompanied by a police escort to clear the way – to Arcades, the final site of the tree where it will remain until the second week of January 2014. Here, it was installed into its final form with the help of a crane to lift each part on top of the other. The tree was connected onto the steel pole by beams; the strings of LED lights were fastened around the tree; and the spotlight was installed in the centre of the tree – and voila, complete!

The tree lighting ceremony was held on Friday the 29th, which was attended by the sponsors of the tree, the stART team, the children and their guardians, and the Permanent Secretary of the Lusaka Province. The ceremony was held not only to officially light the tree and thank our sponsors, but to celebrate the values associated with the construction of the tree:  recycling, giving to those less fortunate, a better place for our children, art as a tool to stimulate and empower growth in disadvantaged children. Santa was on hand to give all the children involved a small gift, much to their excitement! There was an army of small red-shirted people running around the marquee near the tree, Coke having sponsored T-shirts to all the kids involved in the project.

The tree is a majestic symbol of the power of creativity, and it will remain on display for all to see until January 2014. It is a must-see, especially at night when the lights are on! Thank you to everyone involved in this wonderful project, and well done to Vandita who co-ordinated it all.

The story of the Recycled Christmas Tree was shared on the following sites:

KickStarter Projects      http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2006355886/lusaka-markets-video/posts/676466

BBC on Twitter:  #Zambia ; Pic.twitter.com/ZDa447MvdC

Hole in the Wall blog by Andrew Mulenga    http://andrewmulenga.blogspot.com

Le Matinal      http://issuu.com/le-matinal/docs/lm_20140118/20