SOLDIER: From Street Kid in Nigeria to Rising London Artist Redefining Boundaries Through Art

SOLDIER: From Street Kid in Nigeria to Rising London Artist Redefining Boundaries Through Art

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SOLDIER, also known as Leo Iheagwam, is often considered one of the luckiest individuals alive.

His journey from being a street kid in Nigeria to becoming a rising artist in London is a testament to his raw talent, dedication, and knack for seizing opportunities.

In this article, we delve into his inspiring story of transformation and creativity.

A Skateboarding Beginnings: From Lagos to London

Growing up in Nigeria, SOLDIER’s early life was marked by a love for skateboarding and a fascination with art.

Running away from home at the age of 16, he found solace in the streets of Lagos, spending his time skateboarding and visiting the city’s lone skate shop, WAFFLESNCREAM.

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Although he always dreamed of being an artist, it seemed like a distant aspiration during his teenage years.

From Dream to Reality: A Meteoric Rise

Now at the age of 23, SOLDIER has emerged as one of London’s most dynamic emerging artists.

His latest series, unveiled on Instagram, showcases his growth and evolution as an artist.

This collection is comprised of four acrylic and mixed media on canvas pieces, each featuring a painting of his passport.

SOLDIER’s Nigerian background is reflected in his work, drawing attention to the challenges posed by the limitations of his passport’s power in the global context.

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Art as a Catalyst for Change

SOLDIER’s work goes beyond aesthetics; it’s a platform for social commentary and awareness.

The theme of immigration, passports, and the inherent inequalities that dictate travel restrictions are central to his creations.

He seeks to shed light on the plight of those born into countries with restricted mobility and limited access to educational opportunities.

His art becomes a voice for the voiceless, advocating for change and empathy in an unfair world.

Serendipitous Encounters: A Twist of Fate

The trajectory of SOLDIER’s life took a pivotal turn when he encountered Grace Ladoja and Alex Sossah, founders of the global culture studio Metallic Inc, during their Homecoming festival in Lagos.

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This encounter led him to legendary Grime artist Skepta and an unexpected opportunity.

The trio made a deal with SOLDIER: if he finished school with good grades, they would support his journey to study in London.

This offer ignited a spark in SOLDIER’s heart, driving him to seize the chance for a better future.

Making His Mark: A Creative Resurgence

Upon arriving in London, SOLDIER wasted no time making his mark.

Alongside friends Slawn and Onyedi, he co-founded the skate collective Motherlan.

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Their impact was felt even before they fully settled in their East London flat, landing a joint cover on i-D magazine for their influence on Lagos skate culture.

SOLDIER’s hunger for success and his determination to embrace each day as an opportunity fueled his creative journey.

Camouflage and Independence: Artistic Expression

SOLDIER’s signature camouflage style carries deep symbolism for him.

In Nigeria, civilians are prohibited from wearing camouflage, but SOLDIER, a skateboarder at heart, embraced this pattern as a form of creative expression.

His choice to incorporate camouflage into his work represents freedom and independence, a rebellion against conformity and a celebration of individuality.

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Art for the Select Few: Exclusive Collectors Circle

SOLDIER’s artwork has gained significant demand, but he remains selective about who can own his pieces.

His connection with his art runs deep, and he views each creation as a piece of himself.

He carefully chooses his collectors, ensuring that those who acquire his art truly understand and appreciate its essence.

Notable figures like designer Heron Preston and UFC fighter Marlon Vera have joined his exclusive collectors circle.

Beyond Gallery Walls: Art in Unconventional Spaces

SOLDIER’s artistic journey takes unexpected turns as he ventures into unconventional territories.

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His “SOLDIER London tour” brought his art to prominent landmarks, challenging the boundaries of traditional gallery spaces.

By displaying his work in public spaces like in front of the Houses of Parliament and the Tate Modern, he aimed to make art accessible and relatable to the everyday passerby.

An Ever-Evolving Creativity: Side Quests and Collaborations

SOLDIER’s creativity knows no bounds.

He engages in various side quests, from modeling for brands like Supreme to collaborating on unique projects like a leopard print loafer with Duke + Dexter.

He embraces every opportunity that aligns with his creative vision, aiming to infuse artistry into diverse aspects of life, even exploring unconventional platforms like sex toys and apps.

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Transforming the Ugly: Art as a Catalyst for Change

At the core of SOLDIER’s artistic philosophy is the belief in transforming the world’s ugliness into beauty.

He sees the role of an artist as a force for change, capable of turning negative experiences into thought-provoking and entertaining creations.

SOLDIER’s choice of the name “SOLDIER” encapsulates his mission of redefining meanings and generating positivity in a world often marred by negativity.

Conclusion: The Artistic Journey of SOLDIER

SOLDIER’s journey from a street kid in Nigeria to a rising artist in London is a story of resilience, creativity, and seizing opportunities.

His ability to channel his experiences into meaningful art has not only shaped his own life but also resonated with those who encounter his work.

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SOLDIER’s art transcends boundaries, challenging norms, and inspiring change through its compelling narratives and captivating visuals.

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