Return to Sender, a major outdoor installation by the Nairobi-based multi-disciplinary artistic collective NEST, consists of a custom-built pavilion made of bales of used clothing - called mitumba in Swahili - the majority of which ends up in landfills in Africa. The work alludes to a dystopian waste landscape and highlights a major environmental problem. The installation made of old clothes echoes the true breadth of the uncontrolled consumption in the Global North, and the stringent regulations that overtly force the movement of these materials to the Global South, to become the business and headache of less industrialized nations to deal with, as both waste and non-waste. An inordinate amount of textile waste comes to Africa—up to 40 percent of each bale of imported second-hand clothes is completely unusable and thus taken straight to landfills—also forcing the folk who trade in them to incur high overheads on the risk of a useless bale. The installation in Athens is made of textiles and clothes collected from Greece and intended for recycling or reuse in industry, where they will end up after the exhibition
Return To Sender is also accompanied by a video installation, entitled Return to Sender - Delivery Details that explores the complicated situation of mostly second-hand textile waste in Kenya and Africa, through the viewpoints of different contributors. The work is a companion piece that explores the context of the mountain of litter which the public will have the chance to visit in Athens for a period of approximately six months but is a current unending reality in Kenya and many other African countries. During the presentation of the installation in Athens, NEST will add local material.
The project aims to raise awareness of the negative consequences of high-street or fast fashion – clothes bought, worn for a short while, and discarded quickly – and to raise awareness of the issue specifically in Greece. The environmental footprint of the fashion industry is an issue that needs to be talked about more and consumers need to be made aware that cheap clothes constitute not only an environmental problem, but also a political one as the wealthy West continues to dump its waste in the Global South and poorer countries.
About the NEST Collective
Founded in 2012, the NEST Collective has created works in film, music, fashion, visual arts and literature. These projects are designed to engage multiple audiences and important contemporary issues. While their practice refers to African urban, contemporary and post-colonial experiences, as an enquiry into their histories and reflections about possible futures, it often responds to and is aware of the interconnection of important contemporary issues (such as the climate crisis) at a global scale.
Their work usually unfolds in multiple platforms, spaces and audiences, including academia, and public space. In 2013, the NEST Collective also founded HEVA—Africa’s first creative business fund of its kind—to strengthen the livelihoods of East Africa’s creative entrepreneurs. In 2018, the NEST Collective founded the Strictly Silk program—a dance party and multimedia space that provides joy, safety and a sense of community for women and non-binary people of all origins, religions and generations. Last year, NEST was included in Monopol Magazin’s annual 100 list, the German art publication which selects the top 100 cultural practitioners making key contributions in the field of contemporary art. Return to Sender was commissioned by Documenta 15 in Kassel (2022) and is being shown for the first time in another country since then.
More info: https://www.thisisthenest.com/
INFOReturn to Sender | The NEST CollectiveAn SNFCC-EΜΣΤ co-production curated by Katerina Gregos26 April – 30 September 2023Esplanade, Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural CenterFree entrance
The installation Return to Sender at the SNFCC is made possible through a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), which will also support a number of educational and creative activities for all ages accompanying the project throughout its stay at the SNFCC.
Production manager: Yiannis Arvanitis
Project team Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC):
Exhibition coordination: Sylvia Liouliou, Roula Kokkota, SNFCC
Installation coordination: Vyron Askitis, Cordia
Structural design and supervision: Christos Santorinaeos
Construction: Stelios Labadarios
Bales procurement: Dimitris Peitsidis, SIMONI VERA
Press Office Manager: Marina Kokolodimitraki, SNFCC
Communication coordination: Afroditi Koufagela, Eleana Papacharalampous, SNFCC
Photography and documentation: Nikos Karanikolas, Danae Kokkinaki
Visual identity: Bend Hyper Studio
Coordination of educational programmes: Dimitra Kritikou, SNFCC
Coordination of school programmes: Evi Kaisari, SNFCC
Project team National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMΣT):
Artistic Director: Katerina Gregos
Project management: Athena Ioannou
Project coordinator: Ioli Tzanetaki
Text editor: Theophilos Traboulis
Subtitling: Video Press
Communication manager: Kassiani Benou Communication team: Maria Tsolaki (Media Relations), Sergio Zalmas (Social Media)
Education department (EMΣT): Elisabeth Ioannidi, Dimitris Kannas, Ioakim Theodorides, Marina Tsekou
Special thanks to Sunny Dolat
ΕΜΣΤ realizes the presentation of the NEST installation and the collaboration with SNFCC in the framework of the ΕΜΣΤ Extra Muros programme.
Photograph: Nikos Karanikolas