35 year old Ernest Nwokeocha is based in Lagos, Nigeria. He makes artworks from old tyres and other scrap materials.
The last of 4 children and a gifted artist from childhood, he studied at the Auchi Polytechnic in Edo State of Nigeria, obtaining an Ordinary National Diploma (OND) in Painting, and a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Sculpture.
The inspiration to create sculpture from old tyres came to him during his HND programme. A lecturer gave his class an assignment that required them to buy materials worth a minimum of N7,000 ($17).
However, he couldn’t afford the money for the materials because, at the time he gained admission to the Polytechnic, his parents had already spent all their resources sponsoring the education of his 3 siblings.
His efforts to raise money yielded only N350 or 5% of what he needed. At that point, he decided to look for alternative materials. He went to dumpsites and began to search for plastics and cans to use for the project. After gathering the scraps, he went to the market, bought adhesive for N200 and food with the remaining N150.
He carried the scrap materials to the school studio and worked all night, creating a mosaic which depicted an artist making things in a traditional setting. He eventually scored 75% for the project, higher than many of his mates who had spent above N7,000 to buy materials.
During his mandatory year of national service, he worked with a welder to create sculptures from waste tyres, and eventually had his work featured at the Nike Art Gallery in Lagos. In 2021, one of his sculptures was taken to Iowa in the USA and was unveiled by the mayor of the city.
He is currently working on his apartment which has a studio, and is making efforts to encourage more young artists to delve into his line of turning waste to wealth.