Return to Sender is a film and ambient soundtrack, which is a compilation of sounds recorded at various second-hand clothing markets across Nairobi, Kenya. The installation that houses it is constructed entirely from bales of used garments, known as ‘mitumba’ in Swahili, which are discarded in huge volumes by people in Europe and America and shipped to Africa for disposal. These bales are sold to vast markets in various countries in Africa, notably Ghana, Nigeria and, in this case, Kenya. Up to 40% of the clothing in the bales is unusable and is dumped in clothing mountains that pollute the environment in these places. Thus, the waste of the Global North becomes a major problem for the countries of the South which have to manage, often at high cost and with no infrastructure, the unwanted stock.
The NEST collective, whose work spans film, music, fashion, visual arts and literature, is based in Nairobi, Kenya and was founded in 2012. Drawing on the contemporary urban African experience, their practice explores the historical, colonial and post-colonial past of African communities and their possible futures, while exposing current global problems that are interconnected and concern us all.
To hear more about this work, listen to Nest Collective’s Sunny Dolat in conversation with artist Jeremy Hutchison and Amber Butchart in Episode 1 of the Cloth Cultures podcast, Season 3.
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