Labadi Beach area of Accra may soon come to be associated with bright yellow art installations spanning blocks of its community, and its all thanks to artist Serge Attukwei Clottey, who uses Kufuor gallons as his artistic material.
Square shapes are cut from the 20- or 25-litre yellow jerrycans known in Ghana as a “Kufuor gallon,” named after former President John Agyekum Kufuor during the period of water shortages. It is then sewn together to form plastic carpeting. He also uses the tops of them as masks which he wears in photos or on the street.
According to the BBC, Clottey’s recent work, the yellow-brick road, is about property rights as the residents of many poor communities in Africa cannot prove land ownership because they do not have the paperwork. Clottey repurposes the cans, many of which have been discarded around the country, for his art which he calls “Afrogallonism.”
Clottey estimates, in an interview with the BBC, that he has used 30,000 Kufuor gallons since 2005 when he started using them in his artwork. He has used about 3,000 of them in his yellow-brick road project which began in 2016.
It is also a way of re-purposing plastic trash, a practical response to the pollution experienced in Ghana, as vast quantities of jerry cans have built up on city streets, dumps and beaches. Locals also get involved in the project by collecting the Kufuor gallons which they exchange at Clottey’s workshop for $3 (£2.30) per kilogram.
In recent years, environmental groups have focused efforts on educating locals about littering and waste management, however the recurring water shortages complicate the issue as the need for the cans keeps returning.
“People do not care to listen about how they should use less water or waste less. Children are not educated about global warming in school, and they are not inclined to take action about the issue,” Clottey says, but he hopes the vast plastic installations will help change attitudes both at home and abroad.
Clottey, who has been gathering the containers for more than 15 years, expects to complete the project in 2020 when he hopes to have marked out an area in the community which he says belongs to his family.
A selection of Serge Attukwei Clottey’s art works were shown in San Francisco in April at Ever Gold Projects, San Francisco.