MAGO—a Japanese artist bringing changes to a slum in Ghana through the power of art

Mago Nagasaka and local staff

Agbogbloshie is a slum in Ghana engulfed in electronic waste from advanced countries. In this article, we are taking a close look into MAGO, who is trying to change the world by turning the waste into art.

Did you know that waste from advanced countries is dumped in Ghana? There is a Japanese modern artist who has been working to let the world know about the grave situation of Ghana and to transform the slum into a sustainable city through art. His name is Mago Nagasaka (or MAGO). He founded a company after graduating from a vocational school for clothing, but unfortunately it went into bankruptcy, so he began drawing pictures on the streets of Shinjuku to start over, and that’s the beginning of his journey as an artist. From then on, he was making a living by buying electronics and brand products for business purposes while traveling in 16 countries around the world and drawing pictures on the streets. One day, he stumbled upon an article in a business magazine covering waste export. That made him become strongly interested in waste problems and found out about a slum called Agbogbloshie in Ghana. A tremendous amount of waste, mainly from advanced countries, has been being dumped in the city, and the residents are barely making a living by burning the waste.

The air at waste disposal sites is polluted by burning electronic waste.

Clothing waste dumped on the beach near Agbogblosy

To solve such a problem at its root, MAGO has been trying to raise awareness of the problem through his art. Many of his artworks are one-of-a-kind made with waste dumped in Agbogbloshie. They are very unique and eye-catching and get to the core of the problem at the same time.

Ocean of Truth: This artwork was created using the clothing waste collected during the cleanup of the beach near Agbogbloshie where an immense amount of clothes are dumped.

He has also been creating a series of works themed on the moon ever since he got inspiration from the moon he saw in the night sky of Paris, where he visited a little before getting to Ghana shortly after the September 11 attacks. This one shown here was made as a wish for world peace, and it is made with Echizen-style Japanese paper, which is unique to Fukui Prefecture, where he’s from.

A work from the "Moon" series. Washi from his hometown, Fukui, is used in this series.

In recent years, the SDGs and environmental problems have been drawing attention throughout the world. In that respect, MAGO advocates “sustainable capitalism” in order to realize both economic development and environmental and social contribution. His goal is to create jobs for 10,000 people by 2030 in Agbogbloshie, a city with a population of 30,000, and transform the city into a sustainable city with zero pollution. So far, he founded a school and a gallery in 2019 and a recycling plant in 2021 in Ghana. If he could achieve the goal, it would possibly be a great example for sustainable development around the world, contributing to the fulfillment of the SDGs.




If you are interested in his initiatives, definitely visit his galleries called MAGO GALLERY. There are seven of them: Fukui, Shiga, Kurashiki, and Shodo Island in Japan, and New York, Paris, and Agbogbloshie internationally. At these galleries, you can not only look at his works up close, but also purchase them. Understanding his works would definitely be the first step toward realizing the sustainable capitalism.

■DATA Mago Nagasaka Online gallery: https://www.magogallery.online/en Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nagasakamago/