In 2018 I discovered that thousands of 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 girls to experience extreme abuse to their bodies and minds. Meeting people who have gone through these experiences inspires me to create art that addresses the subject matter.
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 is seen here, and is in alignment with my mission to preserve and protect human freedom. I use plaid plastic canvas derived from bags referred to as "refugee bags" as my base, primarily for its symbolic connection with global migration. Also, like the bags, women’s bodies are seen as disposable and available for reuse in whatever form one would like. I make direct visual references to the bright pattern that adorns most of these bags, using the intersecting colors and lines of the plaid to reflect the many overlapping quandaries, constant journeys, and difficult decisions that face victims of sex trafficking.
I use water-based paint markers to illustrate forms that allude to female bodies with emphasis on breasts and distressed faces. The visual interconnectedness of the forms represents how widespread the effects of sex-trafficking and hyper-sexualization of female bodies are.