Sunday 3 March 2019

Artists against gender-violence celebrate Int'l Women's Day 2019

Drawing by Clara Aden titled 'Till Death Do Us Part'

Gender violence and other social conflicts form the base on which 13 female artists are celebrating  2019 International  Women's Day. From Nigeria, Cameroon and Republic of Benin, the artists are using their paintings and sculptures to draw attention to the increasing level of sexual violence against children and women in Africa.

Organised by Alexis Galleries in partnership with Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF), the exhibition titled Femme (Female), which opened yesterday, and ends March 15, 2019 at the gallery in Victoria Island, Lagos, also raises issues such as preventive measures and managing trauma incured by victims.

DjakouKassi Nathalie, Moufouli Bello, Millicent Okocha, Clara Aden, Doofan Kwahgool, Addis Okoli, Olawunmi Banjo, Olayemi M. Afolabi, Nkechi Abii, Omo Udenta and Amarachi Odimba are Femme artists. The exhibition is coming about six months after the same gallery dedicated another show in celebrating breast cancer month.
 Patty Chidiac-Mastrogiannis,
Founder & Director, Alexis Galleries noted that Femme "comes as first time show of all female artists at Alexis." She explained that the gallery is mostly interested in the subject as "we believe that a lot of women are regularly mentally bashed by men."

One of works for the exhibition presented during a preview depicts the journey of hope and truncated dream for a lady freshly in marriage. Titled 'Till Death Do Us Part' and 'rendered in drawing with minimalism style that depicts the lady's journey of "hope", the piece also emits caution. Aden, the artist said, the character represents quite a lot of women going into marriage with high expectation. She noted that the flip side of most marriages is that "some women are not happy inside the marriage, yet concealing the challenges confronting them."

Perhaps speaking for most women with older experience in marriage, another artist, Nkechi, a mother of three argued that woman is the strength of the society. "We are strong mentally and emotionally." But she did not think living with the pains of abuse is a solution. Victims of abuse, she insisted, must speak up. "I agree with breaking the silence solution to stop abuse."

Cameroonian, Nathaniel who is showing sculptures in ceramic medium prefered collaboration among women as a remedy. This much, one of her works titled 'Woman Support Woman' explains. Nathaniel advised that "we should also educate everybody on the issue, not just the woman, but men too."

Founder of WARIF, Dr Kemi DaSilva-Ibru who reeled out frightening UNICEF statistics on gender violence said art is a deliberate choice in creating awareness and assisting victims overcome trauma. “The WARIF Advocacy Through Arts (WTA) is a new initiative by our organization, which seeks to create awareness and change behavioural patterns." The organisation's focus, she added, include discouraging gender based violence in tertiary institutions across Nigeria.

Seated, Curator, Patty Chidiac-Mastrogiannis; Founder of WARIF, Dr Kemi DaSilva-Ibru; and co-curator, Ato Arinze with exhibiting artists of Femme.

DaSilva-Ibru explained her WARIF's efforts in areas of awareness and managing victims. While nothing that one in four girls are affected before age 18, according to UNICEF 2015 report, DaSilva-Ibru boasted that WARIF has its independent and local findings. "We are not just relying on UNICEF numbers but making our own research and findings," she said, adding that family members, school authority are targets of the orga isation's awareness programmes.

"There have been to date, over 5000 direct beneficiaries from the initiatives carried out and countless numbers indirectly through advocacy and awareness campaigns in the media," she explained the organisation's coverage in just two years of existence. "Through immediate medical intervention of cases of rape and sexual assault and various preventive impactful initiatives, our goal is to build a society free of rape and sexual violence."

Co-curated by artist, Ato Arinze, Femme is supported by Pepsi, Heineken, Mikano, Amarula, Delta Airline, Nederburg, Cobranet Internet Service Provider, Cool FM, Wazobia TV, Chocolate Royal, Art Café and The Homestores Limited. Arinze, a ceramist disclosed that the presence of young artists in the exhibition was an attraction for him. Also, he noted that "women are more spiritually strong than men," despite being regular victims of sexual violence.

For WARIF, the awareness machinery, DaSilva-Ibru recalled "started with performing art and now using visual arts. As regards preventive, she disclosed: "we engage local midwives to rural community up to 1000."

Among WARIF's efforts in medical areas for victims, she said is a Sexual Assault Referral Centre where medical care, legal aid, psycho-social counselling, access to shelters and vocational trainings to survivors of rape and sexual violence are offered "free of charge."
 And to ensure standard, WARIF, according to DaSilva has initiatives that are measured with strict monitoring and evaluation protocols to establish a needs assessment and the quantified impact of the implemented initiatives.

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