Innovative designer takes e-waste to another level

By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

Gladys Muyenzelwa is a Gaborone based artist and designer who has an eye for ethnic and contemporary design. But unlike other designers, Muyenzelwa has found a way of using e-waste to make her creations.

Speaking to Biztechafrica, Muyenzelwa said she started her creative journey when she was in junior school. “I had the creative bug when I was still at junior shool. Then I could collect some beverage tops and use them to make earings and other related pendants and ornaments.” During the same initiation period, she would make use of bottles, cover them with local ethnic cloth called german print or leteise in the local Setswana language. She said she used to approach tourists and other interested people with her products.

Gladys’ about turn came during the campaign for the World Information Technology Forum (WITFOR) in Gaborone in 2005. “When word went  around that Botswana was going to host one of the largest IT conferences in the world, I decided to put my creative instinct to good use, and take advantage of the many visitors to the country to showcase my tech-inspired creations. In the meantime, I had already started experimenting with disused IT items such as floppy discs, keyboards, and the computer mouse to make my designs. I would make necklaces using cords, beads and dangling a mouse.

She said during the countdown to the WITFOR conference, she worked tirelessly through her company called Ikebana fashions to create some signature fasion and other designs using e-waste. “As the days approached for the conference, I got myself busy creating not only clothing items, but things like chairs using computer cords for seating base, beads, necklaces, handbags and other small items.”

On the first day of the conference, Gladys Muyenzelwa caused a stir by appearing in a high-tech ethnic cotton outfit of her own design. The outfit was adorned with cds and keyboard keys tied at the back with computer cables. Her unique code of dressing earned her a place in the conference’s daily bulletin.

Ten years on, after the WITFOR conference, this rare kind of designer has not looked back. She is adding more and more items on the list of her already popular creations. Although she is still working from home, Gladys is still selling clocks made from Cds, handbags, earings that are made from the same keyboard keys and many more. “The demand is very high,” she says.

Her next stop is the innovation hub. “ I want organisations like the Botswana Innovation Hub and BITRI to team up with me especially BIH’s First Step Ventures, were I feel I can get a good starting point if I find a space  for my period of self discovery.”

While many companies are finding it hard to dispose of e-waste, creators like Gladys Muyenzelwa have found a niche from technology’s refuse.     


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