A mottled patchwork of plastic cloaks two cubes that tower over the desert landscape of Coachella Valley. Titled “The Wishing Well,” the bright pair are the work of Ghanaian artist Serge Attukwei Clottey, who created the nine-foot pieces from scraps of Kufuor gallons, or jerrycans, in response to shared struggles with water insecurity that ripple across the world. Resembling a yellow brick road, a paved walkway connects the two woven structures that stand in contrast to the surrounding environment, which faces continual struggles with access to the natural resource.
Clottey’s use of the material is tied to a larger critique of colonialism’s enduring legacy and the ways it continues to affect populations around the world, particularly in relation to the climate crisis. Originally, European colonialists brought Kufuor gallons to Ghana to transport cooking oil. Today, the plastic vessels are ubiquitous and used to haul potable water. “As repurposed relics of the colonial project, they serve as a constant reminder of the legacies of empire and of global movements for environmental justice,” says a statement about the work that’s part of Desert X, a biennial bringing site-specific installations to Southern California.
“The Wishing Well” is one facet of Clottey’s larger Afrogallonism project, which he describes as “an artistic concept to explore the relationship between the prevalence of the yellow oil gallons in regards to consumption and necessity in the life of the modern African.” The Accra-based artist works in a variety of mediums spanning installation, sculpture, and performance that deal with the broader influence of colonialism in Africa. You can see a larger collection of his pieces on Artsy and Instagram.