Not all cars end up in a junkyard! More and more used cars get reincarnated at the other end of the globe. They wind up not just as third hand cars, but as part of other useful objects as well. In Africa there’s an artisan culture of re-use and inventiveness which is largely unknown to Westerners. In our project, we follow the stream of discarded cars to Ghana in order to document their hitherto unknown destination.
In the heart of the recycle industry of West Africa, in an area called Suame Magazine in the town of Kumasi, Ghana, 200,000 artisans, in 12,000 workshops, stores and factories are working round the clock to repair, adjust and re-invent European scrap yard cars from the West.
Visual artist Melle Smets, researcher Joost van Onna traveled to Kumasi in February 2013 to build a African concept car, in collaboration with the local community. They Set up Shop and created a unique automobile in three months. Philosopher Bram Esser joined the team and worked as an apprentice in local workshops to learn from the life in Suame Magazine. Filmmaker & Photographer Teun Vonk documented the building process of the concept car. The development of an African concept car is the connecting theme guiding the viewer through the international flow of waste processing as well as the local automotive cottage industries.
The completed car made a test drive through Ghana, and was inaugurated by the Ashanti king. The name of the vehicle is the SMATI Turtle 1 and is on it’s way to The Netherlands. This way, discarded car parts which were once exported to Ghana, will be sent back to the Netherlands as a one-of-its-kind automobile.