The metaphor resonated with Clottey. His work investigates the history and culture of his own hometown, Accra, and his primary medium, a type of plastic water jug known as a Kufuor gallon, happens to be yellow. He began using the vessels at the beginning of his career, in the early 2000s, when he realized they were not only readily available in Accra’s dumpsites, but also resonated with his interests as an artist—from his country’s history of trade to its people’s daily rituals and struggles.
At their core, the yellow containers once signified Ghana’s trade history: They were originally used to transport cooking oil from the West to Africa. When Clottey was young, however, they’d been repurposed as water jugs during one of the country’s worst water shortages (they were dubbed “Kufuor” gallons, after Ghana’s president at the time). Women, primarily, were tasked with hauling heavy containers of rationed water back to their family homes; their trips could be miles long. The yellow jugs came to represent not just water, but distress, as well.