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Meet Chibuike Ifedilichukwu, Nigerian Artist Who Creates Portraits From Waste

Chibuike Ifedilichukwu 3

American rapper Cardi B, award-winning Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Nigerian music label founder Don Jazzy are among the superstars he constructs with recycled garbage.

Chibuike Ifedilichukwu, a Nigerian artist, was inspired to explore waste opportunities in 2021 while accompanying his wife to a prenatal clinic. His foot landed on a heap of discarded plastic strips. Instead of dismissing it, he took it home and began researching methods to transform waste into cash.


After a year of soul-searching, he honed his childhood skill of weaving and turned plastic into art. He said when he found out no one was transforming plastic into art like he now does, he capitalized on it and invested his time and passion into it. “I wanted to find a unique way to express myself and I researched. I found that nobody does this pattern of art,” Ifedilichukwu told CNN.

Ifedilichukwu’s environmental consciousness may be traced back to his infancy in Anambra state, Nigeria, alongside his grandmother. According to CNN, he learned to weave in school but has only recently begun adding waste materials into his technique.

Ifedilichukwu creates abstract art and portraiture in Awka, Nigeria, utilizing a variety of materials such as aluminum, wood, plastic, metal, copper wire, rope, bullet shells, and donated injection bottles from local clinics.

Despite the unorthodox nature of his source, he collects these materials from dumpsters in his neighborhood. While others may think he’s odd, he sees it as a means to make a career while also raising awareness about environmental safety.

Ifedilichukwu methodically organizes his stuff after a successful dumpster diving expedition. He begins by washing and sanitizing the cans and plastic strips he has accumulated. Then he painstakingly cuts the ends of the cans into strips, which he skilfully weaves together to produce a canvas. He draws his subject with a pen on this canvas.

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Ifedilichukwu creates portraits using a weaving technique in which he intertwines the colorful exterior sections of cans with the plain part of his canvas. This approach is inspired by traditional fabric and mat weaving, known as “nka-ute” in Igbo. Each piece of art he creates with this approach takes him roughly two weeks to complete.

Ifedilichukwu plans to only showcase environmentally concerned superstars in his paintings in the future, such as Greta Thunberg and Leonardo DiCaprio. He has already created a painting of Afrobeats star Davido, who has worked with the conservation organization WildAid.

Ifedilichukwu, a multi-talented artist and environmental activist, has created over 40 works of upcycled art that have received national and worldwide recognition. His work has received a lot of attention on social media and has sold for up to $1,000 each piece. True success, in his opinion, resides at the crossroads of art and a commitment to waste reduction. He envisions a community-based art gallery that fosters emerging artists while also promoting environmental advocacy.

Chibuike Ifedilichukwu

Despite the dangers, Ifedilichukwu is willing to put up with bodily suffering for the sake of his craft. Sharp things such as cans, craft knives, scissors, needles, and steel wire have caused him injuries. He sees these injuries as part of his message, representing the anguish that garbage causes the ecosystem.

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