Japanese Artist Creates Animal Sculptures From Recycled Paper

A chance encounter in Africa prompted Japanese artist Chie Hitotsuyama to create lifelike animal sculptures from rolled-up newspapers. She wants to remind humans that we share the planet with other creatures.

During a visit to Zambia in 2007, Japanese artist Chie Hitotsuyama stumbled across an injured rhino that had been attacked by poachers for its horn. The experience moved her to create art that would communicate the plight of such animals.

Four years later, she created her first sculpture - a rhino made of recycled newspapers and entitled "cries and songs from your heart are still heard today." Since then, she has been creating unique animal sculptures by rolling up newspaper and gluing the rolls together. The artist wants to remind humans that we share the planet with other creatures.

"I hope people can learn or feel something after they see my works and it can give them an opportunity to think about what life means," Hitotsuyama told DW. "There are various living creatures in the planet where we live. We should respect each other to live."

Newspaper may appear to be an unusual medium for a sculptor, but for Hitotsuyama it's an incredibly familiar one. She grew up in Fuji, Japan, a city known for its paper manufacturing. There she regularly visited her grandfather's paper mill and fondly recalls the sights, sounds and smells of the factory. It's also a good use of discarded materials, she says.

"Newspaper is the material that we are familiar with and can get anywhere in our daily lives," says Hitotsuyama. "By creating the animals using the old newspapers that stopped serving their role as an information medium, I wanted to breathe a life into those newspapers. By gluing paper rolls one by one, I can form beautiful contours and curves and shapes of the animals emerge."

Creating the sculptures is painstaking work. Hitotsuyama usually sees and learns about the animals she wants to create when she travels or by visiting exhibitions. A large animal such as a dugong or walrus takes around three months to finish, while smaller animals such as iguanas take about a month and a half.

For Hitotsuyama her work is coupled with a broader concern for the environment.

"We are smart creatures that can sympathize and fix the environment, though we can destroy the environment for our convenience and benefit. It's important for me to learn about how we can improve the environment," she says.