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Harvesting Electronic Waste for the African Bead Museum

Electronic waste exists in almost every household.

As a result of living in the digital age, technology can quickly become obsolete. Old appliances and devices easily accumulate over time. One alternative is to harvest the waste from these items, such as copper, and upcycle them. 

Students work with copper using soldering irons in Ron Eglash's class
Students work with copper using soldering irons in Ron Eglash’s class.

Recently, a group of Stamps students led by Professor Ron Eglash harvested electronic waste from household appliances to create jewelry for the African Bead Museum. Throughout the Winter 2023 semester, the students worked in the studio to recover copper from fans and other small appliances. They took the wire, formed jewelry based on African symbols (adinkra), and then gifted the pieces to the Dabls Mbad African Bead Museum in Detroit. 

The African Bead Museum is a community that houses 18 outdoor installations, the African Bead Gallery, N’kisi House, and African Language Wall. Olayami Dabls, the founder and curator of MBAD African Bead Museum and Dabls African Bead Gallery, created the project with the intention of using art for its original purpose in Africa.

The students’ work on this community partnership project is documented in the video below.