‘I pick trash to make beautiful objects so that women treated as trash realise they are assets’
Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale lives in Lagos, Nigeria, where she brings to life compelling works of art using ‘trash’. Her innovations, dubbed ‘Trash to Treasure’, tell stories of hope and the beauty of women and girls while also depicting their lived realities in broken communities in Africa.
“I am not an artist. I’m just a women’s rights activist using art to change mindsets about violence against women. I use trash to create treasure because I was treated like trash, many women are used and cast away like trash, so I will pick trash to make beautiful objects so that women treated as trash will realise that nothing is trash and nobody is a nobody. We can become assets if we decide to pick up our life, dust ourselves and turn our lives around.”
Speaking to a Nigerian newspaper THISDAY, Olutosin detailed how she started her organisation, Star of Hope Transformation Centre, which helps turn around mindsets of survivors of violence from ‘trash to treasure’.
“My father died when I was just three years old and my mother was everything to all her children and she ensured that she trained us. It was very hard, we were five; three girls and two boys. I am the last of five. During that period, my mother was getting older and there was little or nothing she could do anymore, so she took to farming. I always follow(ed) her to the farm on Fridays and came back on Monday, so I knew how hard it was for me.
So when I looked at my story, it was sad and agonising and thinking of orphans, I know it will be worse for them. So I decided to work with female orphans and women who are abused, or have stories to share as a result of the unique experiences they have gone through,” she explained.
After surviving domestic violence, Olutosin started her artistic innovations by chance when her youngest daughter brought home a school assignment to create a ‘face of Africa’. She helped her daughter create a piece for the assignment using fabric patches and the result was stunning such that she created three pieces instead of one.
“That was the beginning, and afterwards I started creating so many beautiful pieces,” said Olutosin.
Olutosin, who graduated with a Master of English Arts from the University of Lagos in 2000, has also received numerous accolades and awards in recognition of her work with survivors of domestic violence and orphaned children.
In 2016 she was recognised by World Pulse, a US based social network for women, and given their prestigious Impact Leader award which saw her being sent to Ireland, the US and South Africa for further training to strengthen her own personal transformation.
Olutosin emphasizes independence and accountability, saying they do not monitor beneficiaries of her organisation’s programmes because they train them to become independent and to want to change their own lives.
“When we earn trust and become sisters, we let others know that they can recreate their future. The community is watching you, everybody wants to become an asset.”
All images credit to Olutosin