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Amref Health Africa Artball, New York: Behind the scenes with curator Atim Annette Oton

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Nearly thirty artists from across the continent have already come on board by donating artworks for auction at the Amref Health Africa ArtBall to be held in New York on Wednesday the 8th of June 2016. The works have been donated to the #AmrefArtBall in order to help raise funds for Amref Health Africa's innovative grassroot programmes that span across thirty-five countries and touch millions of people throughout sub-Saharan Africa every year. In this article curator Atim Annette Oton tells us about the curatorial framework for the event, and what we can expect to see.

 AA Newsletter May12 AmmreF1Solly Cissé, Monde Perdù, 2013. Mixed media on cardboard. 42x30cm.

"The selection I curated for the auction focuses on artwork that tells stories through the work of contemporary African artists from across the continent – including Egypt; Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Senegal and Ivory Coast. The artists selected come from a range of age groups, working in a variety of mediums and styles. Ify Chiejina, for example, is an emerging Nigerian artist based here in New York. Inspired by old family photographs, her painted donation, Bu obere nwa / Was a Little Girl, focuses on Nigerian customs and family. Another emerging artist is Tahir Carl Kamal, a Kenyan photographer who is also currently based in New York. His series ‘Jua Kali,’ (meaning 'hot sun' in Kiswahili) depicts portraits with computer parts and other recycled objects from the informal sector, exploring notions around Africa as a place of innovation and imagination."

Another artist selected for the Amref Health Africa Artball is Nowinde Vivien Sawadogo (Burkina Faso), who photographs portraits of the elderly, portraying everyday people and life. Sawadogo’s work was selected for the 10th edition of Bamako Encounters: African Biennal of Photography in Mali. Dr. Massimiliano del Ninno, a patron of the event and owner of Kyo Noir Studio in Viterbo, Italy, has played a key part in donating artwork and uniting the generous artists who have also donated several pieces of art for the show, including the work of the deceased Tanzanian artist George Lilanga, considered an African master and the Picasso of Africa. Lilanga’s abstract work speaks of the Makonde culture, merging painting and sculpture to tell stories. 

AA Newsletter May12 AmmreF3George Lilanga, title on the back, 2000. Acrylic on masonite. 60x60 cm.

Dr Massimiliano del Ninno also played an integral part in encouraging artists to donate.

“Amref Health Africa is making a real impact on the lives of thousands of communities across Africa,” Dr. del Ninno says. “When I was approached with the opportunity to give to such a unique event, I wanted to do my best and unite others from across the continent to give as well. I am incredibly lucky to have the work of Mederic Turay, for example, an Ivorian painter based in Morocco, whose work deals with urbanity and social issues such as racism, war and homophobia. His work mixes his cultural roots in Ivory Coast with his Washington D.C. childhood.” I’ve also donated some works from my private collection: works of the great Ivorian artist Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, Senegal abstract expressionist Soly Cissé,  and Esther Mahlangu of the Ndebele tribe of South Africa.”

Another commission, orchestrated by Atim Annette Oton, is Paa Joe, a Ghanaian sculptor who creates elaborate coffins, blurring the lines between fine art and traditional craft. Paa Joe’s coffins are born from traditional Ghanian burial practices and Oton commissioned his work specifically to create a miniature piece for Amref Health Africa, honouring health care workers who worked selflessly during the fight against Ebola.

AA Newsletter May12 AmmreF2Mederic Turay, Untitled, 2016. Mixed media glitter and coffee on canvas 190x130 cm. All images courtesy of Amref Health Africa.

“These artists hold special love for their country, shared their wealth with their people, and created schools of painting as George Lilanga in Tanzania and Esther Mahlangu in South Africa. All of these artists’ artwork has given worldwide exposure to contemporary African Art. I am convinced that this auction will contribute significantly to support Amref Health Africa’s work and highlight the great potential of African art in the contemporary world,” Dr. del Ninno says.

Amref Health Africa’s ArtBall will honour Wangechi Mutu with the Rees Humanitarian Award for her work celebrating and empowering African communities.

“It’s amazing to see how many artists have united for this cause,” says Bob Kelty, Executive Director for Amref Health Africa in the USA. “A very special thank you to all of the artists for their generosity, to Wangechi Mutu and to our patrons. Our Amref Health Africa ArtBall would certainly not be possible without their support and we’re looking forward to hosting an amazing event that represents the diversity of contemporary African art, right here in New York City.”

 

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