Soles & Stories saw nine Dubai based nannies/domestic workers shaking their creative bones and transforming some blank TOMS shoes into artworks inspired by their own journeys.
The nine shoe artists shared their personal stories, the joy and the pain of the journeys that brought them to today, and their hopes for where their journeys will take them tomorrow and beyond.
Here is Thelma, her story and her soles.
Thelmas’ time in Dubai began eight years ago when she traveled over from the Philippines to visit her sister.
She never really had any intention of staying long-term, but found work helping her sister as a cleaner, and with a few cousins also living in Dubai, she decided to update her visit visa and stay on.
After being in Dubai for just over a year, a family that Thelma and her sister cleaned for had a child, and Thelma found herself being offered a role as their nanny. It wasn’t a completely left-field offer, but with Thelma’s previous twenty years in the Philippines spent working in a bag-making factory, it wasn’t a change she had been preparing for either.
The move from bag-making in the Philippines to full-time nannying in Dubai has worked out well for Thelma though, and she has been with the same family for the last six years, watching the daughter grow and forming a special bond.
Those six years have also seen Thelma be able to put aside money for her eventual return to the Philippines. She has managed to buy a small piece of land in her hometown and over the space of the last few years she has had a house built on that land, an achievement she is incredibly proud of.
Thelma’s future plans are very much focused on a return home to the Philippines, and aside from moving into her house, her dream is to open a small restaurant and make good use of one of her major passions: cooking.
The story behind the soles
As a child in primary school Thelma remembers taking string, dipping it in paint and dropping it onto paper, and it’s that same technique she used to create the red patterns on her shoes. The line is different every time and Thelma says it is similar to her view on life – you never know what will come next.
Thelma describes the flowers and the gold trim around the bottom of the shoe as “beautiful but not showy, feminine, but not complicated.” She likes the understated look. The colours on the back of the shoe represent the Philippine flag.