October 4 2022 4:22 AM E-paper Subscribe Sign in My Account Sign out

Artivism : Art as a medium for environmental activism

Artivism : Art as a medium 
for environmental activism
(Photos: Handouts from Maria Nissan)
Utilizing all the tools in her creative arsenal, Maria Nissan is Assyrian visual artist that seeks to combat plastic pollution by bringing understanding, awareness, and action to the catastrophic plastic waste situation in the Kingdom while also mitigating its effects on the environment. اضافة اعلان

In March, the artist was named the winner of UNHCR Jordan’s Recycling Competition titled “Young Women Taking Actions on Climate Change through Recycling”. According to Nissan, her nomination came as a surprise, and she was excited to be recognized as a woman acting on climate change through recycling.


Maria Nissan, an environmental activist and artist, poses for a photograph with one of her art pieces created from plastic waste collected from the streets, in the Jordanian capital Amman, on May 17, 2022. (Photo: AFP) 

Nissan, who moved to Jordan a few years ago, transforms plastic trash into art in a way that challenges Jordanians’ consumer behavior regarding their role in the daily generation of waste, This new art form, which is integrated with activism, is called artivism.

Her most recent works include large colorful flower installations made of used collected plastics such as hookah pipe hoses.

“I took it upon myself to scour cafes, especially on Rainbow Street, for pipe hoses and discarded lighters. At one café, up to 200 plastic shisha pipes are used and thrown away on a daily basis,” Nissan added.

Nissan highlighted that waste consumption, especially for a female artist, is frowned upon and might be used to discredit her.
People should feel shame when they experience my work, knowing that they contribute to the discarding of plastic.
“As a woman, you can’t help but feel the discrimination and pre-conceived judgments against you. I have been living in Jordan for three years now and still get unwanted attention for the way I look, dress, and carry myself, though my attire is respectful of the culture. Sometimes it gets to you, but winning the competition was an affirmation and a confirmation, especially from the UNHCR, which is an international corporation,” she said.

However, the social stigma is not an issue unique to Nissan. She highlighted that working with waste, in all capacities, is a job often shunned by the public. Yet, Nissan continues to harness her fears as an environmentalist to excel as an artist. She also inspires individuals to rethink and take conscious actions in their lives.


Maria Nissan, an environmental activist and artist, works on one of her art pieces created from plastic waste collected from the streets, in the Jordanian capital Amman, on May 17, 2022. (Photo: AFP) 

Art is the way to go when it comes to environmental activism, she said.

“Art is a universal language that everyone understands. When people experience art, they come back with observations, questions, and feedback. This is how conversations start, and people become empowered. But it’s not only about the metaphor: it shows people that by buying a piece of recycled art, they are reducing waste creation by a considerable amount.”

Nissan’s works have character, a special cadence that makes them instantly recognizable. Her artistic touch invites consumers to normalize the purchasing of recycled products and push it into the mainstream.



By doing so, the time and energy taken to maintain the production of sustainable art are rewarded through financial support that ensures that artists in the field can continue creating, thus breaking the cycle of consumerism while creating a cycle that welcomes repurposing waste.

Around 14 million tonnes of plastic are thrown into oceans annually, a fact that pushed Nissan to use waste collected in Aqaba in her instillations. “A one-time water bottle used for ten minutes or less can take up to 410 years to degrade into microplastics, inevitably resulting in nanoplastics entering fetuses’ lungs and placenta,” she explained.



Nissan’s work has been displayed at several galleries and festivals, including the Recycle Art Festival in 2021, where she collaborated with other artists to give abandoned banners and placards from Jordan’s parliamentary elections a new lease of life. Her installation was named “Plastic Ocean” to highlight the negative impact of plastic on Jordan’s ecosystems and biodiversity — marine life in particular.

Her installations are also large, sized between three to five meters; this “serves to make people feel small standing next to them, urging them to realize the actuality of the waste problem at hand.”

“People should feel shame when they experience my work, knowing that they contribute to the discarding of plastic,” Nissan said.



MicroPlasticsJo is Nissan’s sustainable home decor store launched in 2021, exclusively selling products made from recycled plastic bags. Jordanians can get recyclable wicker baskets and coasters which would otherwise be abandoned plastic bags polluting the city.


Read more Culture and Arts
Jordan News