Tosin Alabi was 15 when she was placed into foster care with her 10-year-old sister following the death of their mother.
Now aged 25, she has started a theatre company Azai Gallery, and written her debut play about her experience in care.
Four Paintings, which opens in November at Space Studios on Mare Street, recounts those tough initial months after her mother’s death.
“I went numb for a very long time, I blocked everything out. The experience made me a lot less family orientated,” she says.
Being without a family meant Tosin struggled to grieve properly or even process what had happened.
But her foster home she describes as a house “filled with love” – she was even surprised to learn that her foster parents were being paid.
The experience of being in foster care she found on the whole positive, and credits it for improving her grades and behaviour as a teenager.
She has less kind words about her social workers, however. During her time in care, she only had one positive experience of a social worker.
“A lot of people go into social care as a job, not because they want to help,” she explains.
At 18, Tosin was placed into shared accommodation for care leavers, where she said she received “no support”. So while her sister stayed in foster care, she was “just thrown out into the big world”.
Four Paintings combines art and performance, with the stage set up as a gallery with paintings on the walls.
“I thought it would be nice to have art and performance combined as I love both,” she writes on her blog.
Tosin sent three artist friends the play’s opening monologue and asked them to create paintings based on it.
“I gave them no creative direction apart from the minimum canvas size of the painting,” she says
Tosin always wanted art to complement the performance, to challenge and explore its meaning on a deeper level.
The idea spurred her creativity, and before she had put pen to paper she knew art would play a massive role in her debut play.