McKee Botanical Garden is proud to present its newest exhibition, Ocean Sole Africa, which will be on display throughout the Garden from now through May 2020. This exhibition features 40 brightly colored, whimsical hand-crafted marine species sculptures made from recycled flip-flops that have washed up on the shores of Africa and were created by 18 artisans from Ocean Sole Africa located in Kenya.
“This exhibit invites you to explore and truly understand some of the creatures that live beneath the sea and the many ways we can become involved in conservation and help to preserve the beautiful waterways that are so important to us all,” said Christine Hobart, Executive Director.
Each sculpture is handmade with care and love by the Ocean Sole Africa family, which is at the heart of it all. They are the people making the change possible and real. The artisans range in age from 18 to 35 and include wood carvers, carpenters, artists, marketers, sales and entrepreneurs who work together to create a better tomorrow with cleaner oceans and colorful art. Their mission is to turn flip-flop pollution into inspiring art to promote conservation and create employment.
Ocean Sole Africa has 150 employees, with an additional positive impact of over 1,200 Kenyans through the collection of flip-flops and creation of their sculptures. Creation of their masterpieces not only provides jobs in a country that has 40 percent unemployment but also sends a message about how we can help our planet, our oceans and people.
Revenue generated from the sale of these sculptures helps clean up the beaches by sponsoring community groups, provides vocational and educational programs to Kenyans, and supports conservation efforts by contributing the proceeds of the sculpture sales to marine conservation programs globally. Recycling efforts on the East African coast have made significant improvements to the environment and the quality of life within the area where Ocean Sole Africa operates.
The story of each sculpture begins as a flip-flop on someone’s feet, which is later discarded and ultimately ends up in our Earth’s waterways, landfills and oceans. Over 80 percent of land waste ends up in our seas, impacting both human and marine life. The members of Ocean Sole Africa gather over 2,000 pounds of ocean trash a week to create these sculptures by recycling over 500,000 flip-flops per year.
The artists collect, clean, compress and carve it into beautiful art. The sculptures are made from upcycled EVA rubber flip-flops, contact adhesive glue and in some of the larger sculptures, recycled styrofoam and wire. It takes the artists an average of seven days to create one sculpture.
It took a total of 816 hours and 5,486 flip-flops to complete McKee’s entire exhibition, which includes turtles, dolphins, crabs, an 8-foot-long great white shark, seahorses, a 6 ½-foot-tall octopus, reef fish, starfish, stingrays, a manatee and two giant dragonflies.
For more information about Ocean Sole Africa, visit www.oceansoleafrica.com.
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday Noon – 5 p.m., closed Monday.
Last admission ticket is sold at 4 p.m. Admission: $15 Adults, $13 Seniors, $10 Children ages 2-12. McKee Members and children under 2 free.