Reimagining Accra’s circular economy by creating materials and designing products combatting the precarity of textiles workers and the textiles market
This project examines how circularity is conceptualized and instrumentalized within the textile waste economy in Ghana. Its primary concern is with how a ‘common sense’ or ‘dominant’ understanding of a ‘circular’ economy – and its associated terms: vintage, sustainable, recycled, etc – are themselves imported and as such wedded to market/capitalist logic. Through my work, what has become clear to me is that much of the circularity legible to the external gaze is merely a momentary intervention in linear logic. This project proposes that to develop circular systems fit for purpose, we must begin with pre-colonial, and self-articulated understandings of circularity, particularly the web of obligations that popular traditional notions of circularity on the African continent demand. The project acknowledges that those whose material realities – their livelihoods, bodies, and spaces – are most impacted by the overuse of textile material and its waste still benefit the least from the design engagements with this material. As such, in relation to designers working as community ‘hands’, we seek to understand how lives are made precarious by textile waste, making design propositions to combat this precarity. Our investigations will focus on putting to use the 288 million items of ‘recycled’ textiles that end up in Ghanaian landfills annually, using it to create durable, nonflammable, waterproof fiberboard material that can be applied to the architecture of the market and its distribution infrastructure, with particular responsiveness to local knowledge holders and modes of fabrication already present in the market.