Philippine handmade dolls share the stories of female inmates

Each of these dolls were handmade by the inmates of the Iloilo City District jail female dormitory.

They are part of an exhibition called Hilway Art Products — curated by Rosalie Zerrudo.

The project started after Zerrudo met with the inmates located near the University of San Agustin, where she works with the students.

“I thought of it as an extension or psycho-socio-intervention. And with that crowded space, we can actually create a mental space for them to be very productive, and use art to actually express themselves and be able to tell their story.”

Through these dolls, Zerrudo shares the women’s stories with the world.

Some dolls depict the dreams and wishes of the inmates.

While others display traumas, experiences, and other emotions.

“It’s actually giving us different perspectives but also kind of understanding humanity in different contexts somehow the similarities and the differences of how people survive, how people actually navigate their own pain and struggles.”

The dolls have also became useful not just for the inmates but for their daughters and nieces as well.

“The children would bring the material back to their home and they will actually create their own narrative of the notion of what it is for them for their mothers being in jail.”

The Hilway Art Project has also created job opportunities for almost 200 women involved as dolls are sold all over the world.

Zerrudo hopes to make the project a social enterprise for these women behind bars.

So far, the dolls have been on display in the Philippines as well as California and New York — with hopes for more locations around the US.

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