Armed with just a pair of scissors, glue and tweezers, Paris-based artist, Anastassia Elias, 40, has created ten mesmerizing tiny cityscapes inside toilet paper rolls to raise awareness about sanitation. She reminds us of the 2.3 billion people – one in three of the world’s population – who do not have access to a safe, private toilet.
From New York to London, Toronto to Timbuktu; cities from across the globe have been re-imagined using toilet paper rolls in a special series of artwork for WaterAid to mark World Toilet Day on Saturday November 19, 2016.
Elias, who uses paper to build the intricate cityscapes inside toilet paper tubes, has chosen cities from both developing and developed countries, highlighting the fact that healthy cities are built on good sanitation. The cities she’s depicting are: Agra, Bogota, Dhaka, London, New York, Stockholm, Sydney, Timbuktu, Tokyo and Toronto.
The toilet roll cities have been created alongside the release of ‘Overflowing Cities’, WaterAid’s 2016 State of the World’s Toilet Report, which this year examines the state of city sanitation around the world.
More than 700 million people in towns and cities across the world are living without decent toilets. Around 100 million of these people have no choice but to do their business in the open, using roadsides, railway tracks, waste-ground and plastic bags dubbed ‘flying toilets’. As a result, disease can spread quickly.
The success of London, New York, Stockholm, Sydney, Toronto and Tokyo is, in part, because they all have safe sanitation systems that protect their inhabitants from diarrheal diseases.
However India, the world’s fastest growing economy, has 157 million people living in its towns and cities who do not have access to a toilet, and 41 million urban dwellers practicing open defecation, making it the worst in the world for urban sanitation. This not only puts people, especially young children, at risk of potentially fatal disease, but has a ripple effect on the country’s productivity and economic growth. According to the UN, there are nearly 400 slums in Agra with many people living in squalor and without access to basic sanitation facilities.
Meanwhile neighboring Bangladesh ranks sixth in the world for having the greatest number of urban dwellers without access to a toilet. Of the 700 million urban dwellers living without a toilet worldwide, 23 million of them are in Bangladesh.
Comments from Artist Anastassia Elias
“I have always enjoyed experimenting with materials that people might otherwise throw away, which is why I started working with toilet rolls; recreating scenes from my surroundings that have inspired me. People sometimes find it surprising that I make art out of such an ordinary, everyday household item but I think their size and my use of perspective helps to draw people in to another world. That is why I am delighted to be working with WaterAid this World Toilet Day to create these tiny toilet roll cities, which I hope will help raise awareness of the staggering 700 million people living in towns and cities across the world without access to a toilet, something which so many of us take for granted.”
Comments from WaterAid Creative Strategist, Joelle Azoulay
“Visually striking art takes something ordinary and turn it into a powerful tool that starts conversations and helps raise awareness around important issues. Artist Anastassia Elias has done just that, transforming the everyday toilet paper rolls we take for granted into beautifully crafted cityscapes from New York to Bogota.
“At WaterAid, we believe that our cities should be buzzing centers of opportunity for us all. Places where everyone can experience the benefits of healthy living, good infrastructure, innovation, creativity and economic opportunity. But the reality is that—for 1 in 5 people around the world—city centers are often synonymous with dirty and overcrowded communal bathrooms, rudimentary pit or bucket latrines that rob women and girls of their dignity and safety. These same conditions threaten the health of the entire community, and lead to pollution of rivers and water sources.”
WaterAid is the #1 ranked international non-profit dedicated to helping the people living in the world’s poorest communities gain access to safe water, toilets and hygiene. WaterAid has programs and influence in 37 countries across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific region. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 23 million people with safe water and, since 2004, 21 million people with toilets and sanitation.
What WaterAid is Calling For
* Everyone living in urban areas, including slums, to be reached with a toilet to ensure public health is protected
* More money, better spent from governments and donors on sanitation, clean water and hygiene for the urban poor
* Better coordination from all actors in the sanitation chain including governments, city planners, NGOs, the private sector, informal service providers and citizens
* Sanitation workers to be given the respect they deserve with stable employment, safety and decent pay. Without them healthy communities and cities are impossible
To find out more about World Toilet Day and see images of WaterAid’s toilet paper roll cities, please visit: http://www.wateraidamerica.org/toilet-roll-art