Manners Mukuwiri is a Zimbabwean native who brings new life to aluminum cans through the creation of one of a kind art pieces. Manners takes the trash that people throw away, and turns it into animal sculptures that send a strong message of how the waste we make should be viewed, and can be repurposed. Growing up in poverty in the district of Wedza, Zimbabwe, and being confined to a wheelchair since age 3, Manners has faced many struggles in his life. Despite the many obstacles faced, through his resilience and creativity Manners has managed to pave his own way, in a place with little opportunity, and is now making real change in the world.
Manners was diagnosed with Poliomyelitis at age 3, ceasing function in both of his legs. As expected, this lack of mobility had a large impact on what Manners could and couldn't do, and in elementary school he began to find a calling in the arts. As a child in poverty, Manners made do with the resources around him for play, and began creating his own toys out of metal waste. He sold these repurposed garbage toys to his friends, for small amounts of money, sparking what would eventually become his full time job many years down the road.
Searching for Purpose
After graduating high school Manners bounced around various occupations in search of something that felt meaningful to him, yet struggled to find the perfect job due to his disability. Almost 10 years later, in 2008, after someone saw a toy Manners made for his child out of trash, much like the ones he made himself as a kid, his art journey began. The now customer was impressed by the unique piece of art, and told Manners to make a collection of samples for him to share with potential buyers. The feedback on Manners’ eco friendly art was extremely positive, and from there Manners began working on his salvaged trash art full time. Manners has now sold his art to fans all over the world, with his largest piece being sold for over $800 USD!
Manners firmly believes that a disability, and the circumstances ones in, do not define them. Despite being given every opportunity to give up and beg in the streets for money, Manners continued to push through and find his true purpose in life. In an interview with BBC, Manners explains how he seeks to inspire others just like him, and when he sees someone else with a disability, pushes them to go out into the world and show that they are capable of anything. Manners is a true inspiration for the world, showing the power of perseverance and creative thinking, and making real change.
The Beauty in Repurposing
While Manners’ story of perseverance is inspiring in itself, the purpose of what he is doing with his art is equally inspiring. In a time of climate crisis, finding new uses for the trash we would otherwise throw away, and repurposing it into something else, makes a very powerful statement. Manners has turned his own life into something beautiful, and his art is a direct representation and symbol of how you can follow his lead. Like Manners, the potential of many of the products and items we use are often overlooked. We as consumers traditionally put confines on the potential use of the items we purchase. At Life UNpacked, we feel there is a much needed shift in our perspectives on plastic waste, and garbage in general.
Using zero waste products like plastic free floss, shampoo bars, bamboo razors etc. is a great start to fighting plastic pollution, but there’s more that needs to be done. Instead of throwing your bamboo toothbrush in the compost, try using it in your garden as a plant label! Instead of throwing out your glass tooth powder container due to a few scratches after years of use, add some artistic flare, or simply embrace the “vintage” look of it! Manners has inspired us at Life UNpacked to look for new ways to keep trash out of the landfills, and we truly hope he has inspired you as well.
What are you waiting for? Get out there and repurpose some items in your own home today!