African artist El Anatsui makes wall hangings out of recycled materials

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el anatsui
credit: Bonnie Alter

The piece in London, hanging on the front of the Royal Academy is called TSIA-TSIA--Searching for Connection. He created it specially for the gallery. It is made of bottle tops woven together with copper wire as well as printing plates and roofing sheets.

The flattened aluminum bottle-tops advertising cheap African liquor--Romatex, Castello, and First Lady Brandy-- glitter like gold.

A recurring theme in his work is colonialism and its impact in Africa. The Europeans first brought bottles of gin and whiskey to Africa to trade. Now these drinks are made locally in Nigeria. All the bottle caps have been collected from the streets, so they may look commonplace but in fact they are loaded with historical significance.

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