Veronique, a portrait of inspiration

WaterAid/Ernest Randriarimalala

It’s no wonder Veronique Rasoarimanana’s portrait was a source of inspiration for artist Victoria Villasana. Clean water has transformed life for Veronique and her family. She told the photographer, “Things are not the same anymore so before you take pictures I need to wear my new clothes and my new scarf.”

Victoria Villasana is a Mexican artist from Guadalajara. Her unconventional textile art reimagines still photography, using vibrant colour and uncut yarn, imperfectly falling out of frame, creating a disruptive, 3D fantasy. 

She has worked on iconic images of the Queen, Frida Kahlo and Marylin Monroe to name a few and has collaborated with artists including Rhianna

Victoria uses her work to tell stories and to make a statement. She did exactly that on a series of WaterAid’s portraits of people whose lives have been transformed by clean water. These embroidered, outspoken portraits were displayed at an exhibition at the United Nations, for a high level political forum. The forum focussed on 6 sustainable development goals (SDGs) including SDG6 – clean water and sanitation. This exhibition is being relaunched with two new images from Victoria and will be displayed at Stockholm World Water Week 2019.

Victoria’s embroidered portraits would bring the stories of people most affected by a lack of clean water and sanitation to the attention of world leaders.

 The Water Effect exhibition at the HLPF, UN New York, July 2018

Victoria said “I was attracted to the image of Veronique because I thought she looked very confident. I love the fact that she’s holding the chicken with a lot of love and passion. You can tell how she’s in a better position now and the scarf for me represents those changes.”

“We often don’t see a face when we hear statistics and numbers. By using colour and patterns I want to bring a humanity to these faces and stories and make people connect on a more emotional level.”

 The Water Effect exhibition at the HLPF, UN New York, July 2018

Veronique is a single mother of daughters from a remote, rural village in Madagascar. Like the majority of people in her community, Veronique’s family depends on agriculture and small-scale farming to make their living, without any farm equipment.

The lack of clean water used to affect Veronique and her family’s health and income. Veronique and her daughters used to have to walk long distances up and down narrow, steep hills and slopes to fetch water. This would take priority over working on their farm. She spent the small amount of money she had to treat her sick children, who became ill from water-related diseases. 

Veronique and her family were not even able to eat rice more than once a day. They used to really struggle.

But things are completely different now for Veronique, her family and the community. Since WaterAid brought clean water to the village, the impact has been significant. People are able to spend more time earning a living. Life is starting to improve.

Veronique told us “We have more time now to work on our agricultural activities. We’ve used that time to grow more rice. We were able to sell more crops. We went from having almost nothing, to now having over 20 chickens, several piglets that are growing well and an FM radio.”

We went back to visit Veronique and show her the finished work, which was seen by world leaders from across the globe.

Veronique was delighted by her portrait. “It means a lot to me and it’s amazing to think that it’ll be there for future generations.” Veronique went to joyfully look for the best spot to hang it up in her house.

We took a few more snaps of the wonderful Veronique. And before you ask, yes, that’s the same chicken.

"This is amazing, I love it." Portrait of Veronique Eulalie Rasoarimanana outside her home holding the photograph of her which includes the embroidery by Victoria Villasana.   Tsarafangitra village, Belavabary commune, Moramanga district, Alaotra Mangoro region, Madagascar. August 2018.
WaterAid/ Ernest Randriarimalala

More of Victoria's artwork as shown at the UN exhibition