Daniella Soje is an 11-year-old founder of Daniella Art Studio where she uses what many consider as trash to bring out exquisite arts. The youngster artist utilizes marine debris from household materials to make artistic designs. In this interview with DUSTAN AGHEDO, the multiple award winner speaks about her journey as a kid entrepreneur, her achievements and how she has used her Trash to Art project to campaign and create ecological awareness in the country.
What brought about the Trash to Art project?
The project was conceived out of the need to lend my own contribution to an effective waste management system for a healthier environment, advocating and creating awareness for a safety and cleaner environment while also taking advantage of the business opportunities it presents. Oftentimes, in Nigeria even around the world we see the marine polluted with debris such as plastics, spoons, nylons, and so on which in turn becomes hazardous to human health and animals. This marine debris can be prevented or controlled by reusing, reducing and recycling the plastic bottles covers which are in turn used to create art.
So how has your art influenced the wellbeing of the environment and society?
Well, through the project which has actually been underway for a while, I have been able to carry out two major activities. I officially started a two-day free Art class training in April, 2019 where I, alongside four other art facilitators educated more than a hundred participating kids on proper waste management, marine debris awareness and how to convert their daily household trash to artworks. I was able to empower other kids by teaching them not just to pick these trash and make artworks from them but they can sell them as well to make money. The art class was really a success because I was also able to learn new art and crafts skills from the different Art facilitators. But prior to that, there was a beach cleanup here in Lagos where I partnered with the ‘Kids Beach Garden’. Over 200 people were in attendance to clean the beach. I was able to pick over 1600 plastic bottles caps at the beach which I was able to reuse at the free art class. The other kids used bottle covers to design fishes, turtles, wall clocks, mirrors and photo frames. I also designed a special fish to illustrate how marine debris affects the fishes which then affect humans when consumed.
How has your school contributed towards your creativity?
My school has been very involved in my journey especially Lara Day Primary school where it all began; learnt my art from there, got encouragement from my mum, aunt who encouraged me to do more and bring more out of myself. I am presently in JSS1 at Dansol High school and they have different events that allow us the students bring out our creativity.
How are you able to balance artworks and studies?
It is not completely easy. I had to juggle schoolwork and studio work together while preparing for the project but my aunt and manager, aunt Bisola has been very helping and supportive. So art is something that I really love but education is very important. I just ensure I keep my head in the right place with a complete focus on my education and then the business comes along.
What else do you do aside juggling school work and studio work?
I write, I can tell stories, I write poems as well. I won third place at the ‘Nnenna and Friends’ Independence Day competition; we were asked to write poems, spoken words or sing about our Independence Day. Other times, I can be solving maths because it is one of my favourite subjects. I also like music. I know how to sing and right now, I am learning how to play the piano. But generally, I appreciate all forms of art including dancing and crafts.
In ten years time, I want to be a big entrepreneur. I see myself as a world famous artist, selling her artwork in museums around the world. I would get my first degree at the university where I would take a course that follows the art line.
Can you take us through some of your achievements and awards thus far?
Yes, I won the most creative business idea at the Kid Entrepreneur Fair, won the best creative kid entrepreneur by ACE Awards, the most creative personality at the Nigerian Child Awards; got a lot of recognition during my tenth birthday, held an art exhibition where my artworks were sold and I made some money. I have sold some of my works to celebrities. I was among the three girls from Africa that won Cartoon Network’s Power Puff Girls (PPG) Awards, got an award from Evans group where I got a thousand dollars. With all these money, I was able to get my own space, the art studio; a whole lot of it has been put into my Trash 2 Art project. All these wouldn’t have been possible if not for their support, the PPG, Evans group, and the Bow Seat for creating the beautiful initiative that encourages kids to speak out on ecological issues and create creative projects.
How supportive and contributing are your parents towards your talent?
My parents have always been very supportive but at the same time want me to focus on my education. When I was much younger and they see me cutting papers or drawing, they will tell me that it is better for me to be reading or doing something else but since I was able to prove to them that I can balance art and studies, they have been very supportive. Any problems I encounter they help me, they don’t condemn but support me through out.
Any words for parents and children reading this?
Everybody has a God given talent. Some might have to work hard for it, for others it might be inborn but it still needs to be discovered and when discovered it must be embraced. For parents who have noticed that their kids have these talents, that child would need to be guided and encouraged. Believe in them even when they don’t believe in themselves, don’t shut them down, continue to encourage them and they will make you proud.
For the kids, discover your talent and when you find it don’t let go of it, don’t kill your talent or let anyone kill them for you. Don’t let negative feedbacks or comments bring you down. If you know you can sing, you don’t necessarily need to have a good voice for that, as long as you have a good message you can become a singer. If you know you can draw and someone else calls your art ugly, it doesn’t matter their opinions don’t count because someone else will see the beauty in it.
Environmental pollution is a big burden in this nation, even in most countries, what do you think the government can do to curb this problem?
I think government should create policies, sensitive the populate about environmental pollution and educate them about the benefits of living in cleaner environment, educate them on how to properly dispose their trash so that a lot of these trashes don’t end up on our water waves, on our roads and so on.
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