Redefining 'billfold'


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    Artist Sipho Mabona used the "wet folding" technique to twist and shape the locusts to make sure George Washington's faces and the words "In God We Trust" show prominently on the locusts' bodies.

    - Tess Vigeland

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    Each locust is made by an uncut sheet of 21 dollar bills that Mabona specially requested from the U.S. Treasury.

    - Tess Vigeland

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    The artist Sipho Mabona was inspired to make locusts when he heard European politicians talk about "locusts," or Heuschrecken, large multinational corporations that go around the world gobbling up smaller companies and spitting them back out for quick profits, said exhibit curator Meher McAuthur.

    - Tess Vigeland

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    Mabona used U.S. dollar bills, because it such a strong symbol of capitalism. When asked why not British pounds, McAuthur replied, "Too expensive."

    - Tess Vigeland

A ring that exhibit curator Meher McAuthur folded out of a dollar bill for Tess Vigeland.

The dollar bill is the most common denomination of U.S. banknote. And, you probably don't give it a second thought, other than a means to pay your bills or buy something. But for Swiss-South African artist Sipho Mabona, he saw a medium to convey a political message.

Tess visited Mabona's installation -- part of a larger origami exhibit -- in the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo. Mabona folded sheets of uncut U.S. dollar bills (each sheet contains 21 bills) and painstakingly folded them into locusts, which takes about five hours for each bug.

Take a listen to the audio above to learn what Mabona wanted to say with his menacing locust bug origami installation.

About the author

Tess Vigeland is the host of Marketplace Money, where she takes a deep dive into why we do what we do with our money.

A ring that exhibit curator Meher McAuthur folded out of a dollar bill for Tess Vigeland.

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