FeaturesThis former teacher turns waste into eclectic artwork

This former teacher turns waste into eclectic artwork

Rashida Adil, who has been teaching art and craft for 20 years, uses her passion for upcycling to build a generation of conservationists and artists.

This article was reported by Saranya Chakrapani for yourstory.com on April 18, 2024.

Rashida Adil believes in giving a new lease of life to discarded items. In her world, old CDs become wall hangings; T-shirts are fashioned into bags and old bottles make up for life-size installations. 

Adil, who headed the art and craft department at the Sharjah Indian School in the UAE before moving back to her hometown Nashik in 2021, is currently involved in Project Rise, the philanthropic arm of the Dawoodi Bohra community. The project is dedicated to supporting vulnerable populations worldwide through education, healthcare, nutrition, water and sanitation, as well as environmental protection. 

The Dawoodi Bohras are a Muslim community comprising approximately one million members living in over 40 countries across the world.  

As part of Project Rise, Adil joined hands with close to 150 students with special needs from schools across the country, collected 1,000 used CDs, and created coasters and candle holders out of them. These were then gifted to the members of the Dawoodi Bohra community during Ramzan last week. 

“We launched our ‘Best out of Waste’ programme in Nashik under the banner ‘Project Rise’ to promote environmental sustainability while serving those who are less fortunate. The project demonstrates how small steps can lead to significant impact,” says Ammar Miyaji, coordinator of Project Rise in Nasik. 

“As part of the Dawoodi Bohra community’s over 30-year-old environmental body, Burhani Foundation, several educational programmes and seminars are held to train members in recycling, upcycling and leading a zero-waste and sustainable lifestyle, and Rashida ben has been an important leader in this vision,” he adds.

Besides environmental conservation projects, Project Rise has also undertaken a sustained water security project in Yavatmal to support five villages, and engages with local communities in Nandurbar, Govandi, Roha, Karjat, and Panvel in Maharashtra, providing sustained aid in nourishment, education, healthcare, and potable water to children and families.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

In 2009 Adil decided that the upcycling she had been independently doing all her life could be passed on to her students as a lesson in both environmental conservation and finding innovation and art in waste.

“Among our earliest projects was a flag of the UAE, which students and I created out of 65,000 buttons. We inspired the headmaster of our school to incorporate aspects of waste management as a part of the school curriculum,” says Adil.

She taught her students how to repurpose empty soda bottles, their caps, CDs, paper plates, sponges, disposable spoons and non-biodegradable products into pieces of craft.

In one such campaign, Adil and her students collected 5,000 glass bottles from their homes and neighbourhoods and painted them to create planters that were then distributed with plants to the public and police officials.

“These projects often take months—from finding materials to ideating and creation. What keeps the students going is the excitement of creating something new and unimaginable out of things that were so far only viewed for their functional value. This excitement automatically leads to creativity and experimentation,” says Adil. 

Among her other projects include creating a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi using 5,000 recycled buttons to mark India’s 74th Independence Day, which was gifted to the then-Indian Consul General to Dubai, Aman Puri. 

The buttons used in the portrait were contributed by her students. She also transformed 10,000 bottles into a picture of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder of the United Arab Emirates.

“I have always seen a new lease of life in objects that are discarded. For as long as I can remember, I have been using everything from ice cream spoons to discarded glassware to create something creative or for utility,” says Adil. 

“When I began including students in these projects, I saw that their energy and enthusiasm created a ripple effect everywhere they went with these products—be it in old age homes or to community members. And this kind of contagious passion is probably the best part about my work,” she adds.