Using plastics as medium of expression in paintings

Monday April 05 2021

'Florida in the Kitchen', from the Mihayo Kallaye collection. PHOTO | COURTESY


Mihayo Kallaye aged 24 is a mixed medium painter and environmental scientist based in Dar es Salaam with his pieces located at Nafasi art space, Mikocheni Industrial Area. His paintings capture cultural beauty and deliver diverse messages to audiences.

His work has been exhibited at the East Africa Biennale and at the National Museum of Tanzania last year and published by Bare Hands, an online publication in Texas, USA.

Share your journey as an artist.

I have been an artist since childhood but my passion for art grew stronger in 2015 in high school at Kibaha Boys’ Secondary School. I obsessed with beauty and perfection; my work was mainly portraying faces, animals and landscapes.

In 2016, I joined other artists at Mwenge Vinyago determined to venture more into tourist art as seen in Tinga Tinga, Walking Maasai, Mama Africa and wild animal paintings.

In 2017 at university, I was introduced to a course known as Environmental education. This made me think differently about art, and helped me to link environment sustainability and my art.


Nafasi gave me the space and time to develop that link by introducing me to contemporary art, concept development and research-based art. This helped me to find my own style and artistic voice using used plastic as my medium.

Why art as a message carrier over any other medium?

I find art to be the right approach to deliver my suggestions towards environmental sustainability, start conversations towards lifestyles that leave a less harmful footprint in the environment. It should also challenge environmental stakeholders on how to ensure sustainable lives in tandem with our developmental focus.

Who are your customers?

Any art lover, collector, dealer, gallery, museum, commercial companies seeking to use my works in advertising their brands, NGOs, and the government.

What is your work geared to?

To start conversations on environmental sustainability and influence society to be innovative in solving environmental problems such as climate change and waste management.

Do you have a favourite artist? Which is your favourite piece?

I admire Sungi Mlengenya and my favourite artwork is titled Florida in the Kitchen, which I did in the first month of coronavirus in Tanzania when all learning institutions were shut including my workspace. I worked from home for almost four months and was inspired by how my mother handles waste from her kitchen.

She dumps all waste generated in the kitchen in one bag, the degradable and non-degradable alike. This makes recycling almost impossible, since it is difficult to separate waste and leads to unnecessarily large landfill sites.

Why plastic bottles?

Reason is that plastic bottles have been one of the solid waste problems in my society and the world at large. Many countries have moved towards banning the use of plastic waste, but until then, society must find innovative ways to handle plastics. In using plastic bottles my art pieces have power to spark more innovative ways of handling single-use plastic waste in society.

How do you sell your artwork? What do you dislike about your artwork?

I sell through studio visits, exhibitions and online through my Instagram page. I dislike getting so immersed in my work I have little time for recreation.

What connects you most to your work?

It represents my thoughts, visions and stand on different issues concerning the environment in my society.

He pursued a Bachelor’s degree in. Environmental sciences and management at Sokoine University of Agriculture between 2016 and 2019 and in 2020 underwent one-year’s training on contemporary art at Nafasi Artspace.

He uses plastic as his medium of expression, creating textured mixed medium paintings. His inspiration comes from daily life in society, focusing on topics concerning environmental sustainability. His concepts are meant to trigger conversation and raise questions through his art.

Tell us more about your paintings

I research a concept and toy with ideas on how society approaches challenges. I let this non-artistic community feed me information to flesh out my concept. Then I move a developmental stage, using sketchbooks to find the right way to deliver the intended information to society. I then paint the final sketches that to deliver the intended messages. My paintings are mostly in series so, you will likely find more than one painting addressing the same issue in society, albeit from different perspectives.