Ivory Coast painter gives new life to e-waste

ABIDJAN, Dec 14 (Reuters) - Desire Koffi often walks through Koumassi, a popular district of Ivory Coast's main city Abidjan, to collect old mobile phones that he buys from people for 500 CFA francs ($0.8726) a pair.

Back home, the 24-year-old Ivorian artist dismantles the phones with a hammer to pull out the screens and keyboards. He uses them for his paintings. One can take him up to three or five days of work.

Koffi grew up in Koumassi and says he was drawn to recycling and incorporating e-waste in his art, after seeing how it affected his environment.

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Ivory Coast painter gives new life to e-waste
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Ivory Coast painter gives new life to e-waste
Desire Koffi, 24-year-old artist, poses next to his artwork during an exhibition in Abidjan, Ivory Coast December 1, 2018. Picture taken December 1, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
An artwork made with discarded phone keyboards is pictured at the workshop of 24-year-old artist Desire Koffi, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast December 3, 2018. Picture taken December 3, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago
Desire Koffi, 24-year-old artist, holds discarded phone keyboards at his workshop in Abidjan, Ivory Coast November 30, 2018. Picture taken November 30, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago
Desire Koffi, 24-year-old artist, poses next to his artwork during an exhibition in Abidjan, Ivory Coast December 1, 2018. Picture taken December 1, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago
An artwork created with discarded phone keyboards is pictured at the workshop of 24-year-old artist Desire Koffi, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast December 3, 2018. Picture taken December 3, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago
Desire Koffi, 24-year-old artist, works at his workshop in Abidjan, Ivory Coast December 3, 2018. Picture taken December 3, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago
Desire Koffi, 24-year-old artist, places electronic waste on his painting at his workshop in Abidjan, Ivory Coast December 5, 2018. Picture taken December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago
Desire Koffi, 24-year-old artist, walks at a recycling area in search of old mobile phones in Abidjan, Ivory Coast November 30, 2018. Picture taken November 30, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago
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"My number one goal is to try, in my own small way, to reduce electronic waste that is found in the streets and in the bins," he said.

"Here, we are in one of the city's most popular neighborhoods, where you usually find old phones which can no longer be repaired."

With a population of about 5.5 million, Abidjan generates up to 1,500 tons of e-waste per year, according to the European Union-funded E-waste Implementation Toolkit. Koffi says a significant amount of this waste can be used to make money.

With several exhibitions abroad and at home under his belt, Koffi is quickly becoming one of Ivory Coast most important figures in contemporary art.

"I think his work is great. He has decided to go into recycling, and it really suits him because his work stands out from all others," fellow Ivorian artist Ezechiel Guibe said. "Despite incorporating recycling material into his work, he manages to capture all these forms, faces and emotions in his work, which really blew us away," added art gallery director, Olivier Pepe.

(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Juliette Jabkhiro and Louise Heavens)

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