In 2018 I discovered that thousands of people, mostly young women, from my ancestral city, Benin City, Nigeria, are frequently lured into a treacherous journey through the Sahara Desert and across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe and a life of sex slavery. During these journeys, it is common for these women to experience extreme abuse to their bodies and minds. Meeting people who have gone through these experiences inspires me to create art that attempts to retell their stories.
By visually contrasting "cartoonish" figures with more rigid materials like steel, nuts, and plastic beads on the malleable material of a plastic nylon canvas, I aim to question the perception of the viewers on how they interpret form and the female body. The red plastic beads are objects of beauty and opulence amongst the people of my ancestral culture, the Edo people; they represent the enchantment of money as a catalyst for the issues of hyper-sexualization of women’s bodies. Meanwhile, I explicitly state my objection to the commoditization of the body in a short statement written in both English and simplified Chinese characters, pointing to the regions with the most sex-trafficking victims in the world.
This work is a commentary on the pervasive hyper-sexualization and commercialization of the human body, particularly women's bodies, across popular media. These attitudes — that people believe others can be bought and traded — contribute immensely to the propagation of trafficking in the world. My passion to create art that tackles pressing issues and situations facing vulnerable people (including immigrants’ lives and dignity, violence against innocent migrants, gender and racial equality, and the challenges of the diaspora) is seen here.