Dan from Toilography got the chance to chat to Jack Sim – global sanitation crusader and founder of the World Toilet Organization & the United Nations-recognized World Toilet Day!
He was in town with director Lily Zepeda for the premiere of the film, Mr Toilet: The World’s #2 Man at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, which details his dedication to the loo:
“To a stranger, he’s a guy obsessed with toilets, but to those who know him, he’s “Mr. Toilet,” a crusader in global sanitation. Born in the Singapore slums, Jack Sim knows firsthand the agonies of not having a proper loo. Now, he’s dedicating his life to a crisis no one dares talk about: Shit. Using humor as his main weapon, he plunges into his biggest challenge yet when he is asked to secure 6 million toilets for the “Clean India” initiative. But with few resources and no help from the government, his epic project and reputation are in jeopardy.”
Also make sure you catch the end of the chat to hear Jack’s hilarious poop joke! Thanks so much Jack and Lily for your time and wishing you the best of success with the film.
You can see the trailer below or for more info go to mrtoiletfilm.com
Late at night my brother and I paid a visit to a side of Townsville’s Castle Hill that neither of us had been to before. Instead of heading up the usual Castle Hill Road, we ventured to a little-known entrance in Garbutt and had fun exploring some old abandoned, graffiti-clad rooms close to an old disused quarry, dotted around the hill’s southern incline.
I was amused to come across what must have once been a block of toilets, who knows how many decades ago. All that remains today were a couple of footprints of where the crappers used to be, and some piping which appeared to have some toilet paper stuffed inside.
Here’s one of the other abandoned rooms I was talking about, covered in local tags:
At first glance these tiled toilet walls at Shanghai’s Museum of Contemporary Art look like beautiful red & blue flowers:
But take a closer look at exactly what they’re made up of 😆
That’s right – the flowers actually consist of a myriad of highly NSFW curse words and phrases including $HITTYPARTY, $HITTYPEOPLE, EATYOUR$HIT, THE FUCKINGRICH, PISSMONEY and YOURFUCKINGDIRTYHAND$
No wonder this 2007 exhibition by Tsang Kin-Wah is titled “Pi$$ off the Dragon and $hit on the Peony”. A true toilet art masterpiece.
Unlike the toilets I covered in my post about Suzhou’s lack of sanitation, there were some relatively clean and well-maintained loos dotted around the city in the areas frequented by tourists. Many of them were staffed by what appeared to be a full-time cleaner. Here’s a sample of some of them.
Warning, this post may be a little graphic for some.
Today I was in Suzhou, about 100km west of Shanghai. I diverted off the beaten track to walk around some laneways when I chanced upon not one but two local-style latrines. I must say up until today I’d been pretty impressed with the availability and cleanliness of public toilets during my time in China so far but seeing the reality of sanitation in less-touristic areas really puts things into perspective.
The first one I came across was a facility along an alley that ran east of the beautiful Pingjiang pedestrian area. I’d been getting lost in the pathways that wound between the densely-built houses when I noticed this room which easily could have been mistaken for a garage:
It turned out of course to be a public restroom, but very different to any I’d seen before. It was open & highly exposed with barely any privacy, no stalls and no basin: merely a tiled wall to urinate on and a hole in the ground for solid waste.
I admit it took me quite by surprise to stumble across a facility with such lack of sanitation, yet so close to an area frequented by tourists who had access to a plethora of modern, clean restrooms.
Later that day I was walking around the Nanmen Market, a highly localized and seemingly non-touristic area where fish, meat and other such produce could be procured. This gives you an idea of the type of area I’m talking about – the cleanliness isn’t quite at the level you’d expect to see at a western market:
I’d followed the signs to a public restroom a block or two north of the market which was clean and well-maintained, but on my return I noticed a short, dark, foul-smelling alleyway teeming with empty crates which workers were frequenting, within the same building as the market. Curiosity got the better of me so I followed it down to find the entrance to yet another local-style latrine. This time, two trenches on either end of the room were separated by concrete dividers. This is where market workers would go about their business, facing outwards while squatting.
Similarly to the restroom I’d seen earlier in the day, there was no basin. There was a hose, however, which at least suggested running water was available; presumably the waste would be manually flushed away at some stage throughout the day.
As eye-opening as these two restrooms were for me, one of them did seem to have access to running water and both offered a modicum (to say the very least) of privacy. I’m certain there are others out there in worse condition than this. Sanitation – or lack thereof – is definitely something I’d like to explore more through this lil photo project of mine in the future.
As fun and crazy as it is to find the artistic & elegant toilets there is a serious side to it too!
The M50 Creative Garden is a Shanghai hub for art studios, galleries and other creative agencies, with representatives from countries around the world. I was pleased to find this washroom with shiny golden walls a couple of floors above the impressive Island6 Arts Center:
And here are a couple more pics of various artworks from around the complex: