Mawukplorm Harriet Abla Adjahoe

  • University of Cape CoastPhD Scholarship Holder

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Waste as a Resource: Rethinking Set Design through Biomimicry for Sustainable Ecology

In creating a conducive habitation for mankind, nature is often destroyed. We fell trees for furniture and for construction purposes, we clear the land of its green in the spirit of creating roads for vehicular and human traffic, inter alia. Meanwhile, land, air and water from which we draw nutrients essential for healthy living are persistently fed with waste and it is supported by the World Bank’s 2016 survey report that the global village generated an estimate of 2.01 billion tons of waste. However, in recent years, engineers have modeled their designs against an innovative concept, which seeks to find sustainable solutions to human challenges by mimicking nature’s patterns and strategies, called biomimicry. Biomimicry or biomimetics simply is a new science that studies nature’s models and then imitates or takes inspiration from these designs and processes to solve human problems (Cohen & Reich 2016). Biomimicry has thence become an innovative, sustainable source for designers.

Theatre performances have gradually gained recognition as an essential tool for information, education and entertainment. During such productions, set design constitutes a major indication for the overall understanding and spectacle of the performance. The sets designed and constructed for stage performances strive on the use of fabrics, both hard and soft, but majorly hard. When the flats have served their purposes they are either cut into pieces and reused for different designs or as is commonly the practice discarded and burned openly. It has been observed that designers have not explored much with materials outside of the defined conventions of set designing and building. As professionals feeding those in training, we keep their creative imagination boxed up in the old conviction of designing which in many ways, have negative impacts on the environment. It is under this aegis that this research project thrives to explore the alternative of using waste materials as main resources for set designing and construction instead of wood, through the adaptation of the concept of biomimicry for the designing and its implementation, while reducing the creation of waste in the process.

Among other things, this research seeks to answer the following research questions:

  • In what ways can set designers contribute to the global pursuit of creating an environmentally friendly future?
  • In what ways can waste creation be reduced during the process of set designing and construction?
  • What available waste materials are appropriate and conducive for set designing for music and dance performances?
  • How can waste materials be adapted into creating set design for performances?
  • To what extent does the existing design concepts support ecology-friendly designing and designing with waste materials?
  • In what way is the concept of biomimicry adaptable as a basis for set designing with ‘waste’ materials?

Theatre is a collaborative art, thus, the major players such as directors, lighting designers etc. will be involved in every step of the design process through production conferences and focus group discussions. This research which purposes to be bi-reflexive will have both the theory and the practice aspects where the theory of biomimicry drives the conceptualization and practice of set design and inversely, reflect on how and to what extent the design process covered the tenets expounded in biomimicry theory. It is expected that this research will theorize the adaptation and application of biomimicry in set designing using waste materials and serve as a blueprint for fellow designers.



Mawukplorm Harriet Abla Adjahoe is a Theatre practitioner and an educator who holds a Bachelor of Arts (Theatre Studies) from University of Cape Coast and an MPhil (Theatre Arts) from University of Ghana where she developed a pictorial representation of the history and trends of set design in Ghana for a span of 40 years. With nearly 10 years of spirited practice, she is keen on researching into performing arts practices and impacts on the societal and individual growth; history; alternative materials for theatre practices; and gender representation – causes and implications. Her desire for human capacity building, has propelled her involvement in a couple of Theatre for Development projects including Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) project on reducing HIV stigmatization at Edina-Essaman (2008). She was an Assistant to the Technical Director of the Ghana National Theatre (2010) and a Teaching Assistant (2011-2012). In 2016, she co-founded and became the Administrator of The Oguaaman Performance Studio, UCC and subsequently the Artistic Director during which term, she successfully superintended a number of outreach programs in Senior High Schools in the Central and Western Regions. During the same year span, Mawukplorm was a Demonstrator at the Department of Theatre and Film Studies and to expand her research frontiers, she is currently pursuing her PhD at the Centre for African and International Studies, UCC where she is exploring waste materials as alternative resource for set construction.