Friday, March 1, 2024
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Sculpting sustainability

KANDAL (AFP) – A giant, snarling gorilla rears from the peaceful paddy fields on the outskirts of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, made entirely from old tyres by a Cambodian artist keen to encourage others to reuse materials in their work.

Mean Tithpheap used 500 bicycle and motorbike tyres to create the 2.5-metre King Kong over five weeks with two helpers. The 37-year-old artist, who studied at fine art school in Phnom Penh, has been turning tyres into sculptures for four years.

He has made around 40 statues for clients, including King Kongs, elephants, lions, cobras and garudas – a mythical man-bird creature.

Tithpheap said he hoped others would follow his example and put discarded rubber and plastic to creative use so that it does not pollute the environment.

“I have used old tyres of bicycles and motorbikes to make such animals because these tyres are waste and if we can recycle them, it will help the environment some,” Tithpheap told AFP.

ABOVE & BELOW: A worker fixing a King Kong statue made with old motorbike and bicycle tyres at artist Mean Tithpheap’s house in Kandal, Cambodia; and Mean Tithpheap explaining methods to his worker while making an eagle statue using old motorbike and bicycle tyres. PHOTO: AP

Cambodia faces a huge and growing challenge in waste management, despite some government efforts.

The population is growing, income and consumption rising, and urbanisation spreading, but waste collection and treatment are not keeping up.

Effective recycling of plastic waste is nearly impossible in Cambodia, where plastic consumption is widespread and waste management infrastructure is lacking, so waterways and some green sites have become burgeoning heaps of garbage.

Tithpheap charges clients between USD2,000 and USD3,000 for a King Kong statue – his most popular model – depending on the size.

He is also working on a Captain America statue for a cafe, while the entrance to his workshop is guarded by a giant cobra, also made of tyres.