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Published: 07 April 2023

By Andy Ross

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Refuse and rubbish

As the world becomes more aware of the polluting effects of our throw-away culture, artists are raising the subject in some unusual ways. 

The National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in London is due to reopen in June after a few years of redevelopment and one of its recent acquisitions is a tapestry: John Barry, O Kelly, Sonny and Richard Moore. Named after its subjects, refuse collectors who continued to work during the first Covid lockdown in 2020, the piece is a version of a painting by Michael Armitage who was commissioned by the Southbank Centre to recognise the work of essential workers during the pandemic. The tapestry will hang in the new National Lottery Heritage Fund Gallery of the NPG. 

Meanwhile Colin Defosse's photographs of performers in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, highlight the huge problem of garbage. The city's 13 million inhabitants create 7000 tonnes of rubbish each day and Kinshasa cannot deal with that volume.  Street artists and perfomers have been creating costumes from the refuse in an attempt to bring the issue to public awareness and these photographs are going on show in Somerset House in London this month as part of the Sony World Photography Awards. 

For more work by the photographer head on over to his website.