Changing a tyre… into art


Ghanaian contemporary artist Dela Anyah transforms found objects into inspiring works of art.

By: Sbu Mkwanazi

Only a savant such as Ghanaian contemporary artist Dela Anyah can glance at a heap of discarded tyres in his Accra neighbourhood and creatively highlight that more than 4 billion toxic, end-of-life tyres can be found in landfills globally. He does this by using found objects such as tyre inner tubes, license plates and bicycle rims and crafting new creations that represent renewal, identity, rebirth, hope and transformative change. 

“On my street, there are numerous vulcanisers with piles of unrecycled tyres and inner tubes within their space.  They prove that there aren’t sufficient solutions globally for recycling and upcycling tyres at low cost on a large scale, and with no byproducts that will harm the environment. Rubber, depending on its chemical composition, can take up to 1 000 years to decompose. This provides me with a lot of materials and inspiration for my work,” says Anyah. 

The self-taught textile artist not only digs into his Ewe culture for inspiration, but also his religious upbringing and his mother’s fashion workshop, which was in his childhood home. All these experiences eventually resulted in his monochromatic works being exhibited in the US, Denmark, and as part of Latitudes Online, a global platform for art from Africa, based in South Africa.  

It is heartwarming to know that Anyah is not exclusively appreciated outside of Ghana’s borders, which is a reality African artists must contend with in their careers. In his hometown of Accra, he was shortlisted by Alliance Français d’Accra in 2028 to create artwork for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.   

In 2022, he was a semi-finalist in the Art X Prize competition, followed by him being a second runner-up in the Kuenyehia Prize for Contemporary Art contest last year. However, what he is most proud of is his ability to incorporate an ideal that has become an inextricable part of his art and being. 

“I like to bring humanity across symbolically, using found objects to depict stages of our lives. For example, when walking to a vulcaniser shop and seeing mountains of discarded tyres, I imagine a group of people without hope, who were once loved and are now left feeling abandoned. My approach of using these objects is the idea that even abandoned objects aren’t truly abandoned, and they do have hope. I want people to view my work and feel hopeful, to realise that if objects considered junk can receive new life and hope, so can they,” he says. 

It is also human to feel validated, wanted and, ultimately, liked, but since art is subjective, how does he reconcile this with audiences who may not understand or even like his works?  

“Creating art is personal because is an extension of the artist. And just as we can’t make everyone in this world like us, not everyone will like our work. Not every art style, movement and work are for everyone. I create for myself first in that I must be the first to love it before it’s seen by the world. Once I do, others who believe in my work will love, too,” notes Anyah. 

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