Welcome to the fantastic surreal universe of Joseph Obanunbi, a multimedia artist from Nigeria. Focusing on symbolism, Obanubi’s photographs are created in a futuristic “Afro context.”

Obanubi is a Nigerian artist from Lagos who obtained his bacholors and master's degree from the University of Lagos where he now lectures. Obanubi addresses communal living, duality and surrealism in his work as he experiments with photography and graphic design

This series was commissioned by WaterAid in celebration of 10 years since the United Nations General Assembly declared water and sanitation as human rights. Since this declaration, millions have been given vital access to sanitation and clean water.

Water aid IV by Joseph Obanubi. Image courtesy of Artsy.

Internationally, 1 in 10 people still don't have access to clean water, which is roughly 785 million people, while 2 million (or 1 out of every 4 people) do not have their own toilet. Water Aid created this series in order to draw attention to their global call to governments to double down on providing water and making sanitation more accessible, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.

Obanubi’s images are reflective of the poses often depicted in Yoruba sculptures, which are common in West Africa. In Yoruba beliefs, water often serves as a symbol of strength and force.

"Water is considered a basic element of life and as an essential factor in the Yoruba religion," Obanubi says. "Yoruba believe water to be a symbol of force and strength. Water is regarded as a symbol and a tool, able to influence all misfortunes and matters dealing with well being and health. It is sacred and vital to life."

Obanubi’s works emphasise the healing qualities of water and the importance of it to life while drawing attention to the water crisis facing Nigerians.

Water aid I by Joseph Obanubi. Image courtesy of Artsy.

"The access to clean water and hygiene in Lagos still remains a big deal," he says. 60 million Nigerians do not have basic water supply while 100 million do not have sanitation

In these photographs, Obanubi chose to highlight how the lack of access to water and sanitation negatively impacts women and girls. In most households (eight out of ten) the responsibility of collecting and transporting water falls to the women and girls in the home, which often leaves them vulnerable to violence. By highlighting this fact, his series aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for Gender Equality and Clean Water and Sanitation.

Water aid II by Joseph Obanubi. Image courtesy of Artsy.

“For many communities, water sources are usually far from their homes, and it typically falls to women and girls to spend much of their time and energy fetching water, a task which often exposes them to attack from men and even wild animals. Without improved sanitation — a facility that safely separates human waste from human contact — people have no choice but to use inadequate communal latrines or to practise open defecation.” Obanubi said. “Finding a place to go to the toilet outside, often having to wait until the cover of darkness, can leave them vulnerable to abuse and sexual assault.”

You can view more of Obanubi’s work here or learn more and support WaterAid here.

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