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Cluster of Excellence EXC 2052 - "Africa Multiple: reconfiguring African Studies"

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Art meets Science: „From Plastic to Microplastic”


After a first successful visit in 2019, South-African artist Mbongeni Buthelezi will be back at the Iwalewahaus this February. A number of public events will give the interested public an opportunity to watch his artistic process live and engage with the artist while he creates art from plastic waste.

The South African artist Mbongeni Buthelezi is known for creating impressive pieces of art. Impressive due to their size – some of them span 15 metres – and impressive due to the artist’s medium of choice. Buthelezi’s preferred material is plastic waste, which he cuts down and glues onto canvases thus creating the most extraordinary artwork. By giving garbage a second life as valuable pieces of art Mbongeni Buthelezi wants to convey hope but also create awareness for socioeconomic problems.

Following an invitation of the special research section (Sonderforschungsbereich/SFB) “Microplastics” of the University of Bayreuth and supported by Iwalewahaus as well as the Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence, Mbongeni Buthelezi will spend four weeks in Bayreuth. The artist’s stay will be flanked by a number of interesting events to create awareness for both the artist’s and the SFB’s work.

Starting on 10 February 2020, the public is invited to watch the artist’s creative process live at the Iwalewahaus workshop and engage with the artist in person. The artwork that will be created during this time will be displayed in a special exhibition, the opening of which will be celebrated on 27 February 2020. The opening will also mark the beginning of a unique and interesting science rally organized by the SFB 1357 Microplastics of the University of Bayreuth: From 28 February to 4 March 2020 PhD students will be present at Iwalewahaus to give visitors an idea why plastic material is valuable and why an improper disposal of one-way plastic has become such a problem for our environment. Visitors are invited to experiment at different science tables and to find out first-hand about the different properties of common plastic materials. They will have the chance to get insights into today’s challenges of Microplastics research as well as into solutions that the University of Bayreuth is developing. Surrounded by the science rally in the centre of Iwalewahaus Mbongeni Buthelezi will work on his latest project and will be open to inquiries about his creative process.

Picture taken during the Press conference at Iwalewahaus, copyright Inken Bößert

The series of events will close with a „Bayreuther Stadtgespräch“ titled „Das Kunststoffzeitalter: Unsachliche Berichterstattungen zum Thema Mikroplastik verunsichern Verbraucher. Was Forscher wirklich (nicht) wissen und zukunftsweisende Lösungsansätze“ on 4 March 2020. Established in 2014 by the University of Bayreuth, this monthly format gives scholars a chance to interact with the interested public. In March, Mbongeni Buthelezi und Prof. Dr. Christian Laforsch (SFB 1357 Microplastics) will each give a presentation on their respective motivation and the impact they would like to have on society followed by a public discussion. (sg)


  • Starting 10.02.2020 Mbongeni Buthelezi works at Operstraße 1-3, Bayreuth (visits may be arranged)

  • 27.02.2020, 6 p.m. Festive opening of the SFB Mikroplastik Science Rallye und Mbongeni Buthelezi’s art exhibition at Iwalewahaus

  • 28.02-04.03.2020 Science Rallye and Exhibition: Come and find out all about microplastic and watch Mbongeni Buthelezi's creative process

  • 04.03.2020, 6 p.m. Bayreuther Stadtgespräch „Das Kunststoffzeitalter: Unsachliche Berichterstattungen zum Thema Mikroplastik verunsichern Verbraucher. Was Forscher wirklich (nicht) wissen und zukunftsweisende Lösungsansätze.“

The SFB 1357 Microplastics is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft ( DFG, German Research Foundation – Project Number 391977956 – SFB 1357). Find more information here

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