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Plastic portraits put Congo's leaders in the frame

STORY: At first glance, they are typical portraits of politicians in Democratic Republic of Congo.

But the smiling faces of leaders like current President Felix Tshisekedi and his predecessor, Joseph Kabila, have been brought to life through plastic waste.

It's collected and melted down by artist Patrick Cikuru Cirimwami.

His work, he says, is a condemnation of political inaction to protect the environment.

"The big message today, for the authorities; they must tell us how we are going to protect the environment. That's why I told myself that I must continue to use plastic waste such as bags, bottles, used basins, that I process and make drawings."

Cirimwami collects his materials by wading knee-deep through a mountain of plastic bottles near the banks of Lake Kivu in Congo's east.

There is no public waste collection in the area.

Cirimwami says the trash often causes breakdowns in the local hydroelectric plant, leading to power cuts.

He says that's what inspired him to fight the problem be reusing the the discarded plastic.

Congo, like other African countries, has insisted on its right to develop its economy by exploiting its vast natural resources.

However, it has come under criticism for putting oil blocks up for auction in the world's second biggest rainforest.

Authorities have claimed they will minimize the potentially devastating impact through modern drilling methods and tight regulation.