The artist giving plastic a second life

Artist Maria Nissan and her work are pictured in these undated photos. The artist turns plastic waste into art installations to spread awareness. (Photos: Handouts from Maria Nissan)
Artist Maria Nissan and her work are pictured in these undated photos. The artist turns plastic waste into art installations to spread awareness. (Photos: Handouts from Maria Nissan)
AMMAN — An American artist of Assyrian-Iraqi heritage has started an initiative to recycle plastic in Jordan, turning waste into art. اضافة اعلان

Maria Nissan runs an Instagram page named @marianissanart that shares awareness about plastic pollution and its threat to the world’s environment and to Jordan.

(Photos: Handouts from Maria Nissan)

Nissan studied in the US, where she majored in painting and drawing. After graduating, she worked as an elementary school, before moving to Italy to pursue her master’s degree.

She told Jordan News that during her stay in Italy, she noticed a massive amount of recycling initiatives all over the country. Later, Nissan started building installations for using organics and recycled materials in Italy, "I made it part of my thesis project," Nissan said.

After her graduation, she decided to move to Greece, where she planned on using art to help refugees. "My parents are both Iraqi, and they suffered a lot during their migration into America," she said.

"I started collecting the trash from the refugees' areas and building installations for the children," Nissan said. She helped children reuse materials rather than throw them and she held workshops.

"When I finished my stay in Greece, I wanted to come to Jordan only for a visit, "she said, but after visiting a nature reserve and seeing plastic strewn around the park, she decided to stay.

(Photos: Handouts from Maria Nissan)

“My friends took me to beautiful natural reserves, and all the places are shining with plastic," Nissan said.

Nissan focuses on plastic for more than one reason. She said that only 9 percent of plastic gets recycled, and that when it gets into ecosystem; it is broken up into small pieces and turns into microplastic.

She now collects plastic from the street. Before COVID, she worked with restaurants, cafes, and markets that gave her used plastic daily. She said that she was collecting around 15 to 100 bottles and about 250 shisha pipes a day.

"For me, it's not hard to collect the plastic; the process is simple. You only have to walk around any place and collect it," Nissan said.

After collecting the plastic from the trash, Nissan cleans what she collects before using it.

Nissan's drawings are made from paper and plastic bags thrown out in the street and each piece requires around 10 to 50 bags on average. She then cuts them into different shapes and creates her drawing by placing them on top of each other.

(Photos: Handouts from Maria Nissan)

Nissan does not work with a team nor a gallery. She did an installation for an art festival using garbage. The installation ended up measuring around 5.50 meters in height.

"I collected around 3,000 pieces of plastic in the installation," she said.

She also tries to spread awareness by using plastic from popular places, such as Rawan Cake and Shi Shawerma, to grab people's attention.

"I also spread awareness by building huge installations that make you feel very disturbed when you are inside, because you can see how much waste is there in space and (it) will make you realize what we are causing to Earth," she said.

Nissan added that she wants to put the spotlight on something important. She said that we have to start implementing some techniques to help the environment and help people.

(Photos: Handouts from Maria Nissan)

"We daily see those who search into garbage for cans to collect them and get money. We as citizens have to start collecting the cans in a specific place beside the garbage to make it easier to find," she said.

“If you can reuse something, do it, and if you can't just put it out for recycling, think of your choice when you take a piece of plastic."

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