Event: Circular Heroes with Rafael Kouto and the Eran Jije Project

Event: Circular Heroes with Rafael Kouto and the Eran Jije Project

The first iteration of the Circular Heroes workshop was hosted by Rafael Kouto in collaboration with Peter D. Abayomi of the Eran Jije Project, whose work activates Isale-Akoka, Bariga communities through music, dance, and environmental awareness. The workshop took place at the Eran Jije Studio on the edge of the water (eti-omi), and aimed to visualize waste objects as "activated objects". Thematically it took inspiration from Rafael's own research which speculates on the metaphysical presence of waste material whose life cycles have not yet achieved closure. The making of a new life symbolically deactivates the waste objects.


The session engaged 15 young people from one of Lagos' most ingenious waterside communities, characterised by adjacent landfills that provide inhabitants with building materials and income streams through recycling. The exercise served as a prequel to a second Circular Heroes workshop held at the G.A.S. Lagos residency space, attended by fashion designers, visual artists, photographers, climate activists and resource reclamation entrepreneurs.


The workshop in Bariga began with a quick guessing game session, where participants identified the upcycled components of finished clothing items, after which they set out into the streets to source interesting materials that could be upcycled in their own creative pieces. Next, brainstorming sessions were held where three groups of five determined their upcycling concepts and strategies. Participants were taught various textile manipulation techniques such as embroidery, knitting, crocheting, and weaving which were applied to the development of their final pieces which drew on iconography representing everyday members of the community as sacred figures interacting with the waste objects that still hold a connection to their previous owners.


An everyday scene from the lagoon waterfront community of Isale-Akoka.


Participants receive instructions at the beginning of the workshop from Peter D. Abayomi and Rafael Kouto.


Participants identify the upcycled materials in finished fashion products.


Participants identify upcycled materials in finished fashion products.


Participants practicing newly learnt applique techniques.


Work in progress photo of a group project.


Members of one group collaborating on their shared project 



About Rafael Kouto
Rafael Kouto, who lives and works between Lausanne, Zürich and Venice, is Swiss with Togolese origins. He is a creative director, fashion & textile designer, as well as a researcher in upcycling methods, and sustainable and engaging strategies with a particular focus on open source and craftsmanship. He studied Fashion Design at FHNW-HGK in Basel, earning an MA in Fashion Matters from the Sandberg Institut in Amsterdam. He has had various work experiences at Alexander McQueen, Maison Martin Margiela, Carven and Ethical Fashion Initiative.

In 2017 he founded the avant-garde upcycling couture brand of the same name, of which he leads the creative direction, the development of strategies, collaborations and engaging projects for the promotion of upcycling and sustainability through the use of textile waste, dead stock and others materials in the creative and production process. The promotion of upcycling takes place through workshops in collaboration with various institutions and through teaching.

Raphael's residency is generously supported by Pro Helvetia.  


Peter D. Abayomi with Rafael Kouto at the Bariga waterfront.


About Peter D. Abayomi

Also known as Peter Bàtá, is a percussionist, multidisciplinary sonic artist and composer across multiple media including African folk music, sound art, contemporary music, dance, and experimental music theatre. He is a cultural organizer and community advocate renowned for hos work on The Power Of Drum Initiative, Slum Food Support.Org, Eran Jije Project, Prepared Junk Project, and more. 

Eran Jije revolves around the concept of 'Music of the People,' utilizing music and art as catalysts for change. Its goal is to reimagine spaces, foster unity amongst people, and bridge gaps within rural communities in Lagos and across Africa through public activities, handcraft and creativity, performance, and collaboration. The inaugural edition took place in 2021 at Isale Akoka, Bariga, Its primary focus is community engagement, and centres around public programming that actively involve children, youth, and women in the Bariga community. These activities include open mic sessions, performances, empowerment programs, art training, and handcrafting workshops, often addressing waste management and environmental sustainability within the community.

About Pro Helvetia

The Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia has been working at the heart of the Swiss and international cultural scene since 1939. It fosters contemporary art production in Switzerland and helps disseminate and promote Swiss arts and cultural exchange in Switzerland and abroad. Pro Helvetia has its head office in Zurich and maintains an international presence through its liaison office network, located in six major regions of the world. These include Johannesburg, Cairo, Moscow, New Delhi, Shanghai and South America. Pro Helvetia Johannesburg is committed to cultural exchange and artistic collaboration between Switzerland and Southern, East, Central and West Africa. The office forges ties with local organisations, institutions and event organisers, develops and nurtures long-term partnerships, initiates co-productions with artists from the region and organises residencies for Swiss and African artists in both geographic contexts. 


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