When many of us think about a toilet we hardly think of it as a luxury item.
But for 1.7 billion people – that's 1 in 5 people in the world, a decent toilet is out of reach.
Without decent toilets, girls and women are particularly affected. Their safety, hygiene and dignity are all compromised.
When girls don’t have decent toilets in schools, they’re forced to stay home when they’re on their periods, missing out on their education and future career prospects. It’s almost impossible to have your period hygienically without a decent loo.
19 November marks World Toilet Day. It's an opportunity to raise awareness of the millions of people who go without this human right every day.
That’s why WaterAid teamed up with Photographer and Director Rankin, to elevate the status of the humble loo and celebrate toilets for the lifesavers they are.
So, scroll through our galloory to take a virtual tour of these luminous loo seats, and hear how these 25 diverse artists and creative celebrities were inspired to get people talking about toilets.
London-based graffiti artist BAMBI explores contemporary female identity through her work.
“Being an artist is about creative freedom. I want to save the world and that’s why social commentary is always present in my work. It’s easy to live with your eyes shut but that’s not fulfilling or helpful to the world.”
“My toilet seat is a punk throne of defiance. The bladder is in some quarters considered the fountain of truth. Spiritual types will tell you that if you have issues with your bladder, you’re not speaking the truth.
“I feel my art, my inspiration and my reason for doing anything is always about emotion. Even if I’m doing something for a charity, there has to be an element of humour and optimism in the work."
I love the concept. A lot of serious thinking can be done on the throne.
By Val Garland
By Pure Evil
By Daisy Collingridge
By Liaqat Rasul
Decent toilets are a human right.
“I used to have a fear during menstruation. I had to leave the school between classes because of the menstruation. I missed lessons.
Decent toilets are essential to everyone, but this is an issue which particularly affects girls in school.
When there are no appropriate toilets at school, girls simply don't go, missing out on their education and opportunities for the future.
Everyone deserves a decent toilet
For schoolgirls like Anjali, a decent toilet at school is the difference between a quality education and falling behind.
When girls miss out on clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene, they miss out on the knowledge to create change.
That's why we're launching Thirst for Knowledge this winter. Through it and with your support we can bring clean water and decent toilets to tens of thousands of girls in Nepal, so they can focus on their learning and their futures.
Carrie Reichardt’s award-winning public work often focuses on marginalized groups – and in particular, women and their hidden histories.
“Water is such a basic human need that I wanted to do anything I could to raise funds and consciousness about WaterAid's important work."
"My design uses my trademark logo: Mad in England, a pun on British eccentricity and being a renegade pottery, and that it is mad that so little ceramics is now produced in the UK.
Toilets are the only meaningful thrones.
Charlotte Colbert is an established artist and an award-winning filmmaker.
She told us: "I love the idea of turning the toilet into a flower, elevating it back to its original stature of instigator of the life cycle."
Chila Burman examines representation, gender and cultural identity in her work.
“I was thrilled to be invited to be a part of this RANKIN and WaterAid project, which seeks to reposition the toilet seat as a luxury, reflecting the reality that the humble toilet seat acts to prevent the spread of disease.
"We take for granted how significant a toilet seat is, but my own relatives in Punjab were only recently able to get a toilet.
"Billions of people around the world don’t have a working toilet, it’s a basic human right and I’m so pleased to be a part of this project helping to raise awareness."
Daisy is a London-based artist whose multi-disciplinary work is rooted in the investigation of the human form. Her sculptures are an immersive exploration of fabric, form and flesh.
“The purpose of my work is to challenge preconceptions about beauty. My previous work has evoked both repulsion and admiration.
"Toilets are not just about clean sanitation, providing better hygiene and preventing the spread of disease; they also provide safe and secure spaces. Not having a toilet at home or in public spaces can be particularly challenging for women and girls as finding somewhere private to relieve themselves puts them at increased risk of harassment or attack."
Toilets are not sexy, but they are and have been pivotal change-makers in society. We need to recognise and celebrate their importance.
“The piece is inspired by the millions of young girls all over the world who lack access to a flushing toilet, which risks their health, safety and education.
The bare feet represent the hundreds of steps they take every day through waste and the constant risk of disease.”
British artist George Morton-Clark works in major collections all over the world.
His work invites viewers to reconsider instantly recognizable imagery and the division between art and design.
Photographer Gina Soden is interested in abandoned structures and locations, exploring the boundaries of beauty, decay, nostalgia and neglect.
"I wanted to help raise awareness to keep girls in school and more importantly keep them safe from disease.
"I used imagery of toilets left behind in abandoned buildings to highlight how much on this earth is wasted, and how others don't even have access to toilets and basic sanitation. It is such an important issue."
Art: Gina Soden. Photo credit: © RANKIN/WaterAid, 2021
Art: Gina Soden. Photo credit: © RANKIN/WaterAid, 2021
You might not think "artist" when Harry Hill comes to mind, but the comedian and TV presenter has many talents, and has exhibited his work at art festivals.
"Ah the great British tradition of toilet humour! But toilets, I have discovered, thanks to this collaboration with WaterAid, are a serious business.
"One in five people around the world does not have a decent toilet at home, which puts their health and safety at risk.
“That’s where the idea of toilets being lucky items came from – and which inspired my toilet seat design. Plus the seat kind of reminded me of a horse shoe.
"They may not quite be able to ward off devils, ghosts and junk-mail, as I suggest in my design, but if they can protect people from disease and keep kids in school, then they are the best seat in the house in my book.”
Haseebah Ali is a 24-year-old artist and printmaker based in Birmingham.
"For my design, I wanted to highlight the difference between bad water hygiene and good water hygiene. For the side showing the bad water hygiene, the germs and the dark colouring show a lack of opportunity.
"On the other side with the clean water you can see it is bright. I placed flowers to show the blossoming effect and they also link to femininity.
"I wanted to show how rare clean water and toilets can be for some communities around the world and how this particularly affects young girls, who often have to miss school when they are on their period, holding them back from fulfilling their dreams.
It is amazing how something as simple as a toilet, has the power to change lives so profoundly.
"I don’t think a lot of people know about the sanitation crisis. We need have a heavy conversation about it as that is what will create change."
“It's often said my work is puerile toilet humour, so this feels like the perfect project. I've been preparing for it my entire life!
"Jokes aside, toilets save lives and WaterAid’s appeal will help transform lives around the world.”
Hayden Kays has been widely acclaimed as one of the most vital and provocative artists of his generation, producing work that both celebrates and critiques the all-pervasive ‘culture industry’.
“I have been using my work to raise awareness for the plight of the bee for many years now.
"Bees like humans need clean water. So, having a toilet seat crawling with bees made sense to me: a play on what we usually associate with poor sanitation – flies!
"The aim was for the toilet seat to look rarefied and beautiful –and to celebrate how important clean safe water is to our health, well-being and ecosystem."
Jessica Albarn is known for her fine line drawings on paper. She also explores surface using glass clay wax and honey. She often incorporates pressed flowers and insects into her work.
Joe Sweeney works with a visual language created through British idiosyncrasies and "the everyday."
The artist encourages a pause for thought on the daily interactions that we don’t always pay attention to.
Joe said: “Toilets are a sanctuary!"
Laisa studies at the Slade School of Fine Art and has exhibited widely.
Working across video, image and sculpture, her practice can be situated within slimy liminal zones which articulate how something undefinable can be transformative.
Liaqat describes himself as a gay, Welsh, dyslexic Pakistani man and collage artist.
“I’m absolutely delighted and proud to be working on this project with RANKIN and WaterAid. Clean water and decent toilets should be a given, no matter where you live.
"It’s shocking that 1.7 billion people around the world don’t have a decent toilet of their own, impacting on their health, safety and hopes for the future.
"We need to change this.”
Martin Parr is best known for his documentary photography.
Parr’s work has been collected by many of the leading museums, from the Tate, the Pompidou Centre, to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Nettie Wakefield is a British artist who works in pencil, bronze sculpture, mixed media and watercolour.
“I spray painted my seat gold as an homage to the solid 18 karat gold toilet seat that was stolen from the family home of Winston Churchill - Blenheim Palace.
"The sculpture by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelana was estimated at $4 million in gold and as an artwork was valued at $6 million.
“I wanted to really play with the idea of value with my golden seat.
"On the one hand, we have a toilet seat being stolen because of its immense value, and on the other hand it's something we take for granted in the western world and then there are millions in the developing world who lack the luxury of plumbing at all let alone basic water services.”
Art: Nettie Wakefield, Photo credit: © RANKIN/WaterAid, 2021
Art: Nettie Wakefield, Photo credit: © RANKIN/WaterAid, 2021
Ghanaian fashion designer Ozwald Boateng is celebrating over 25 years in the industry.
“Being part of something that fuses creativity and philanthropy, while advocating for the African continent through its work, is always humbling. The design of the seat was inspired by my ancestry and my creative foundation, returning to the core of traditional Ghanaian cloth and print.
"The colours within the fabric express a potent message of mother earth, healing, grounding rebirth, growth and light. Those are the sentiments I want each and every person to connect to within this project."
Fashion designer Pam Hogg has been making a statement with her designs since the 1980s.
"It's always a great pleasure to give my creative energy to a well needed charity, and WaterAid is vital for so many reasons.
"The simple washing of hands is paramount, especially during the current pandemic, but few of us consider or could imagine what life is like when you can't flush a water cistern.
"This affects women and girls disproportionately. Toilets help keep girls safe and in school, and also help prevent the spread of diseases.
Toilets shouldn’t be a luxury reserved for some, but an essential for all.
The slang for toilet is the throne, and to emphasize, luxury for some, I named mine "The Throne", and created a fantasy gold draped and frilled one with recycled leftover fabrics from previous collections. I added gold bows to represent the gift, to inspire much needed donations to this essential cause. "
Charles Uzzell Edwards a.k.a. PURE EVIL is known for his signature bunny tag which can be spotted around London, and his Nightmare series of dripping celebrity portraits.
His recognisable work has been taken his work around the world and more recently, on a toilet seat to raise awareness of the millions of people who live without access to the basic human right of a decent toilet.
Roo's art explores the relationships and connections we have with one another as well as how we formulate a sense of self.
"The opportunity to work with WaterAid, was an absolute privilege. As someone who grew up in Punjab, I am familiar with the attention taken to preserve limited water resources.
"My toilet seat ‘A seat of their own’ is complete with a milk bottle for washing your bottom as well as a squatting seat to emphasise the conversation between health, culture and water systems."
Seema Mattu's art is framed as a theme park - known as SEEMAWORLD.
“My toilet seat is just that - a seat. By moulding the toilet seat into furniture, this sculpture comments on the luxury of access to simple amenities that should be reachable for all.
"A toilet can transform lives, especially for women and girls, helping to keep them healthy, safe and in school.”
An ideas-driven Glaswegian artist, Soozy Lipsey has been working across multiple platforms for 25 years.
Repurposing existing - or ‘found’ - objects and images, Lipsey transforms nostalgia into the uncanny though combinational techniques. To put it plainly: leave behind everything you thought you knew and enter the wonderful world of Soozy Lipsey.
Simply put, she said: "Clean water - That's all folks - a basic necessity"
Val Garland, is a London-based Make-up Artist, author and judge on BBC TV series Glow Up.
"I think it’s so important that everyone should have access to a decent toilet. It is common decency, it’s people’s dignity. Think of girls and women who have just started their periods, you need access to a toilet. Think of the last year, imagine during the pandemic without hygiene. It just seems so wrong.
"People that know me, know I have a bit of a sense of humour. I was thinking how I could incorporate who I am into a toilet seat. When I heard the fact that 1 in 5 do not have that facility, my first reaction was Kiss My A***! Which became the title of my toilet seat piece.
"I wanted to create this very luxurious dream of a toilet, but this is a dream to 1 in 5 that is unobtainable. But that’s why we are here, to make that dream happen. I took the idea of lips as my focus point for this project because we use our lips to talk, and I want people to start talking about toilets."
Dame Zandra Rhodes
Dame Zandra Rhodes has been a notorious figurehead of the UK fashion industry for five decades.
"It has been a pleasure to partner with WaterAid on this project. A working toilet should be a basic human right for everyone, but almost 2 billion people around the world don’t have access to something so important.
"One of my archive prints ‘Chinese Water Circles’ can be seen printed onto silk organza and draped over the seat to emulate water.
"It has created perfect waves and golden swirls, to highlight that a toilet and access to water is, unfortunately, in some countries, still a luxury."
Everyone deserves access to a clean toilet. Together with clean water and good hygiene, these basic essentials can help people transform their lives.
World Toilet Day is an opportunity to raise awareness of the millions of people who go without this human right every day.
With your support, we can reach more people like Anjali and her school friends in Nepal, and help them to transform their lives.
This winter, help bring these essentials to schools and communities throughout Nepal. With the match funding you unlock from the UK government, we and our local partners will extend our work to the Bardiya district in Nepal to:
- construct water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities in 30 schools
- promote children’s rights through child clubs
- run income-boosting activities such as making liquid soap and sanitary pads.
Give before 15 February 2022 and the UK government will match your donations to our Thirst for Knowledge appeal, up to £2 million, making double the impact.