Growing up, Nigerian artist Oluwajuwonlo Adeyemi saw her mother discard large plastic kegs of cooking oil she used for her catering business in Lagos.
Distraught at the thought of adding waste to sprawling dumpsites in a city where only a small fraction of rubbish is recycled, Adeyemi turned them into faces that have become a trademark of the artwork.
She cuts off the top of the keg and paints it, using the handle as a long nose and the round screw-top opening as a mouth.
The colourful masks then become the heads of the protagonists in her paintings, on which she uses materials such as fabric and string to add texture and dimensions.
“Instead of me just painting the face, I wanted something that I can feel, something that can look real… that will look real to others,” Adeyemi told Reuters in her studio.
The 20-year-old marketing student has exhibited twice in Lagos. Some of her pieces have sold for over $1000, she said.
Through her work, Adeyemi also hopes drawing attention to her mother’s discarded oil kegs will raise awareness about waste reduction.
“Whenever she is throwing them away, it affects us and it pollutes our environment,” she said, noting that re-using the kegs was a way of “stopping the pollution”.