INTERVIEW: WASTE TO WEALTH? Inspiring story of Geologist turned Artist


Anyone in a similar situation (as I was on Saturday) would wonder what a young man trained in the study of the rocks and similar substances that make up the Earth’s surface could be doing with different designs of artwork displayed openly on a cool Saturday morning in Ibadan. One would also be marveled sat the ingenuity of this geologist-turned-artist on sighting some of his masterpieces- considering the choice of materials he used for his designs. Full of smiles and energy, Gbadamosi Ibrahim revealed to Umar Ajetunmobi his passion for designs- how it all began, choice of local materials, why he left his jobs, among other issues. Enjoy our conversation:

For those who don’t really know how the journey of Gbadamosi Ibrahim started, how will you describe your background?

I majored in geology at the University of Ado-Ekiti (2003). I made indoor slippers and peejays first; then later experimented with sheep skin to make patchwork rugs. I needed accessories to go with my rugs and voila! That’s how I started making art, but it wasn’t until years later after I entered the labour market that I made my first major piece while working in Lister Oil, Apapa.

What ignited your interest in indoor slippers? After all, arts and geology are not two sides of the same coin.

We all get that eureka moment every now and then. Mine was seeing the head warmers of Okada riders converted to furry indoor slippers not for extra cash per say (I come from a comfortable background). It was more of a desire to see a brilliant idea come alive.

Does that mean you didn’t learn every artwork you do from anyone and anywhere?

I didn’t. I am self-taught (professionally speaking). The art training I received like everyone else was in school up till JSS 3.But as a 6 year-old kid, I had a good exposure to artists in the popular Ibadan youth palace at Dugbe. They used to stage exhibitions at IITA and I remember wishing I could be a part of that world when I am older. And of course they gave me my first lessons and tips too.

Wow! Looking closely at your designs, I saw three of them made of local materials like plastic folks, spoons, bottle caps and even stainless plates. What brought this idea?

Waste to wealth. Things that are discarded and thought of as useless can be up cycled into something useful.

Aside turning waste to wealth, what other local materials do you use?

I use treated leather a lot. I use discarded fabric like Aso-Oke, Ankara, Kente, etc. I use found objects like spare wood and stuffs like that.

Do your clients really appreciate artwork carved out of these waste materials?

Some look down on the pieces on account of the materials used while some really appreciate the ingenuity and resourcefulness. But like I said earlier, I am just using them to find the real deal (my masterpieces which are mostly conceptual).

Sometimes ago, some governments encouraged turning waste to wealth. Do you think it is as easy as they said?

Yes, it actually is. People are not just aware environmentally. Also, people are not using their android phones to educate themselves properly about upcycling and recycling. We have quite a few success stories here in Nigeria; Banke, the lady that makes furniture from tyres recycling plants in Lagos, etc.

Why didn’t you practise geology, the course you studied?

I practised for a while. I worked in the oil industry upstream immediately after school as site engineer from 2004 to 2007; then, from Lister oil from 2007 to 2012. I resigned voluntarily in 2012.

Why did you resign?

I realised it was time for me to jump ship because you don’t want to climb up a ladder only to find out it’s leaning against the wrong wall. At the top of the ladder, I want to make sure it’s leaning against the wall that gives me a happy view.

Are you satisfied with your current position?

Yes! I now have my own studio with ample space and I am financing my masterpieces myself- Fantastic pieces (I mean, you know when you have a great piece in the offing).

What kinds of arts are you into, and what are your charges?

I am going into conceptual art now (and most of my pieces in this niche are not valued yet. I haven’t exhibited them yet). I make abstract pieces too. They are low end art pieces I use to finance my conceptual pieces. Range from N10k to N650k for my low end pieces

What are conceptual arts?

Conceptual art is an art piece in which the idea or concepts presented by the artist is more important than aesthetics (beauty). An example is my piece titled, “Love is the answer.”

Do you supply your works to studios, companies and arts lovers?


On the average, what is the duration of time you spend on each design?

It depends. There are pieces that I can execute in a day and some that take months.

Aside your presence around Mobil, Ring Road, where else can people visit you for business and consultancy?

My studio, 5 Olatunji Agoro Street, behind D’Rovans Hotel, Ring Road

What are you doing to produce more people, especially youth like you? Training them or what?

I haven’t arrived yet o! I have even barely scratched the surface of my talent. When I become a grandmaster, then I can think that way. Nevertheless, kids in my area hang out with me to learn and play; adults too.

The reality now in the country is that getting one’s desired job is a herculean task. What advice do you have for youth doing nothing out there?

Youths should simply keep their degrees as plan B or just to get some experience in the labour market. The golden rule is, “Find something you love doing and put your heart in to it.”

How can government and philanthropists promote creativity in someone like you?

Grants! We artists need grants. The older generation of artists got lots of grants and scholarships.

Where do you see yourself, your work and brand in 5 years time?

My name In Shaa Allah will be recognised with major landmark pieces and styles in the art world.

As a family man, how do you cope with matrimonial responsibilities and the huge timing you devote to your work?

Balancing work and family life has been challenging. Every relationship requires sacrifices by both parties.