national Arts Festival Banner

Monday, August 19, 2019


Collaborative Neptune Project unites science and art to tackle pollution crisis.

A creative initiative from the South African Research Chair (SARChI) in Waste and Climate Change at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), dubbed the Neptune Project, is bringing together a stellar team to use art to draw attention to effects of pollution on the environment, and to convey ideas for solutions emerging from high-quality scientific research conducted under the SARChI Chair.

The Neptune Project, which will be officially launched in November 2019 during the Waste to Resources Summer School at UKZN’s School of Engineering, is uniting artists, engineers and experts in waste management and in the creative arts to explore innovative and exciting ways to tackle waste and pollution, particularly the plastic pollution plaguing South Africa’s oceans, through recycling and re-use. Through these efforts, the project team also hopes to sensitise the public to the impact of climate change on the environment.

SARChI Chair Professor Cristina Trois is heading the initiative with a team that comprises International Waste Working Group Southern Africa Regional Branch Manager (and Neptune Project coordinator) Gisella Reale, Durban Green Corridors, and representatives from Durban-based self-sustaining social enterprise Umcebo Design, namely Creative Director Robin Opperman, Creative Consultant Jackie Sewpersad and Project Facilitator Cristina van der Westhuyzen.

Umcebo Design is known for its creation of handmade d├ęcor items and wall installations inspired by flora and fauna themes using a range of materials, including recycled items.

The Neptune Project features Umcebo Design art installations that include sculpture, fine art and design, an Eco Fashion show held in collaboration with design students from the Durban University of Technology, a short video about plastic pollution in the oceans, an underwater photography exhibition and even musical events.

The Neptune Project is part of the Green UKZN Programme, a component of the institution’s Campus Master Plan that will establish a platform of expertise to activate green projects and increase student awareness through sustainability education across the five campuses, mobilising its own experts to address the issues of water, energy and waste facing the University and its surrounding communities.

The Neptune Project aims to create a permanent art exhibition of recycled artwork at UKZN’s School of Engineering’s Unite Building, highlighting the seriousness of problem of plastic pollution in the oceans and the value of recycling at a community level. This will also creatively communicate results of scientific research into managing waste as a resource undertaken by UKZN’s School of Engineering. The first exhibits at UKZN were unveiled in the presence of the Ambassador of Italy, Paolo Cuculi, and UKZN’s new Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nana Poku, on August 7, 2019, in conjunction with a workshop on water, waste and energy for a sustainable future.

‘We aim to use art as a form of communication that goes beyond scientific language to inform people about what the science community is doing about climate change issues, such as plastic in the oceans,’ said Trois. ‘Through this project, we hope to reach out to unite the people of South Africa in the fight against plastic pollution in the ocean and in the environment, and to support scientific research.’

UKZN is driving the advancement of this strategic and crucial sector. It recently launched the first coursework

Masters in Waste and Resources Management through its School of Engineering, where postgraduate students from all over the country will have the opportunity to specialise in research committed to finding solutions.

For more information contact Facebook: Robin Opperman; Umcebo Trust; Umcebo Design; The Intellectual Property Studio

Instagram: umcebodesign; robinoppermanart