Oil barrels are visible everywhere, in car repair shops all over the world – also used for barbecues and musical steel drums. I first used barrels in a sculpture for the environmental activist and writer Ken Saro Wiwa. The memorial sculpture was a bus, I put the names of the eight activists that died with him in 1995 on oil barrels on the top rack of the Battle Bus.
The discovery and extraction of oil has changed the landscape of my home town in the Niger Delta Nigeria.We are unable to live where we were born; when I see oil barrels it reminds me of this product from the delta. Also with time and research I have realised that derivatives of oil is in all the products that we use daily in modern life – plastics used for computers, phones, containers, toilet seats, lipsticks holders, even lipstick itself … the list is endless.
An oil barrel starts this conversation.
My people live on 22 islands in the Niger Delta, we are Kalabari. Through bad governance, oil is taken out without care for the people living in the delta or the environment. Gas is flared (set on fire and burnt off into the air) which causes not only pollution in that particular area but it is said that it also breaks up the o-zone layer in Australia. The contrast of this situation, is the genius of mankind. Scientists make plastic bags from petroleum, this is an act of wonder. I am fascinated by mechanics and science. I also know that with commercial encouragement a way might be found to make this ‘substance’ less polluting for the planet. This is my dream, that priorities will change. I have faith.
I would like visitors at STOA169 to think of Corinthian columns, history repeating itself, power rising and falling; and Nature overcoming. www.stoa169.com