There is a widespread notion among youths that the fads and fashion of contemporary society are strange to a bygone era. This is far from the truth. Let us look at this statement in the context of the concepts: recycling, re-using and re-purposing. All sparklingly new concepts, Yes; but all of them as old as your grandmother.
The beauty, size and promises of durability were some of the factors that attracted the young lady and prompted that purchase in 1960. More than 50years later, the beauty has faded: wear and tear have set in.But with the help of a few skilled men, she has kept her prized possession in good condition.
Today, over half a century later, Madam John still boasts of her metal suitcase, though it is old and now serves a different purpose. “I bought that suitcase from Boston stores in Lagos in 1960 while on a visit there from Abeokuta,” she explains.“It was beautiful and looked just perfect for my clothes.”
Turns out Madam John is just one of many people in the ancient city of Benin who believe in and love to preserve household items. Repurposing some materials when they have outlived their original use seemed a common practice among this group a few decades ago.
Mrs Igbinosa fondly recalls sharing clothes with her siblings while growing up. “Receiving hand-me-downs from older siblings or close relations was only natural”. The dresses and shoes were used by sibling after sibling until they wore out. Even then, they were still useful as cleaning rags. Books and other educational materials moved from senior to junior pupils in the same family or within a small community, Mr. Osagie recounts.
Rural or Urban Practice?
Interestingly, respondents who were brought up in rural areas claimed they had no memories of being handed clothes or shoes by older siblings or cousins. Their parents, they recalled, had been too poor to regularly change or restock their children’s wardrobes. Each child used his or her clothes and footwear until they were useful to no one else.
Dress makers were even encouraged to make children’s dresses some sizes larger than the child at the time of fitting. That way, the boy or girl would have to wear it until he or she grows into it, by which time the fabric would have become worn or faded.
Rural or urban, well-to-do or not, discarding household items or personal effects that could be useful to persons or for purposes other than the original, was not a behavior that the older generation indulged in.
Re-purposing for Games
A number of contributors shared pleasant memories of creating toys from house hold materials.
Empty match and sugar boxes, milk tins and a piece of string were good for making a mini car. For a bigger van or truck, bigger tins were good for tyres. ‘Useless’ slippers could be useful as tennis racquets.
Environmentalists and Re-purposing
Experts say that reusing, re-purposing household items are some of the ways individual can help the environment.They advise that people should not see saving the earth as something that the government should handle alone.
Re-purposing household items helps reduce waste and unnecessary utilization of earth’s resources.
New Ways Same as Old?
The practice of handing down personal effects or household items may not be as common among those born less than three decades ago. While some still exhibit such generosity as learnt from the older generation, there are those who see it as unnecessary. Some cite superstitions, increasing sophistication and independence as reasons for the change in behaviuor.
The older generation knew next to nothing about words or concepts like reusing, re-purposing or even recycling. Yet their acts, borne out of common sense, helped reduce household waste.