Gallery of African Art London presents HER STORY: Sisterhood That Transcends. From 22nd September until 21st of October, the Mayfair gallery will be showcasing the art works of Nigerian artist REWA and photographer Dagmar Van Weeghel.
While listening to a podcast yesterday Oprah asked a very interesting question that does not seem to go away. “What is the new role of women?” referring to the role of women in the modern world. This exhibition comes right in time to shed some light to this.
It’s been often said that in times of uncertainty that the arts have a key role to play. Perhaps to lead discussions on controversial themes or to stir people’s consciousness? The role of women and gender equality are relevant and GAFRA is bringing them to centre stage in this new showcase.
Artists REWA and Dagmar Van Weeghel are exploring female identity in “HER STORY: Sisterhood That Transcends”. Her story (that of a woman) includes roles women play i.e. mother, sister, daughter, friend, lover. There is a connection that all women share which binds them together – Sisterhood. Through “Her Story”, the current exhibition seeks to celebrate and uplift womanhood.
“All women play a part in a ‘Sisterhood that Transcends.'”
This is exciting to read and we’re even more excited to see the show on Thursday. Each artwork that will be shown, has a unique story and representation. REWA will be displaying her new body of work titled: ONICHA ADO N’IDU (Naming Rites & Traditions of the Igbos of Nigeria).
REWA is a self-taught visual artist. From an early age, she was encouraged to experience and appreciate art. She grew up in London where she started her professional career. Travelling widely, she now calls London, Lagos and Johannesburg home. Each of these cities has played a role in her artistic practice – fortifying her and emotionally challenging her life perspectives.
REWA tells Gallery of African Art that her works are not necessarily portraiture. She comments “My spirit is neither moved by landscapes, nor by still-life or portraiture, but rather by what I refer to as “depicted sentience” through the celebration of the female form in bright, vivid colours.”
Through ONICHA ADO N’IDU , REWA celebrates the women in her culture. She pays homage to the relevance of “naming rites” and how they shape and create a path for the individual. The objective is to help the viewer to identify a certain part of “her women” within themselves.
REWA says it best: “My subject matter is WOMAN – I celebrate her in her many forms. I use traditional materials: ink, acrylic paints and brush on cartridge paper to capture an essence — making the paint assemble and the ink announce. I want my audience, whether male or female, to look at one of my women and be able to identify with her story and the meaning behind her name. I want her to represent a message, a memory, a story or a prayer for the viewer.”
For Dagmar Van Weeghel, creating a narrative is an essential element of her photography. African women play a central role in her compositions. Major themes explored by Van Weeghel’s works include identity and African
women’s migration within the diaspora. She also delves deeply into the subjects of cultural assimilation, exotification, racism and sisterhood.
Her portraits are beautiful and ethereal, the story behind them intriguing. Each work takes the viewer on a journey, exploring the women depicted in the stories they tell, captured through the eyes of the artist. The relationship between the women and Van Weeghel is symbiotic.
A bond of sisterhood is formed – a union that transcends race and class, one that creates a “safe space” for stories to come forth and be shared. Van Weeghel says: “I tell stories that advocate for the strength of people, especially for women and girls. I seek to offer another perspective on the way people see the world, and each other, through the stories I tell visually.”
Private View: Thursday, 21st September, 2017 | 6 – 8:30pm
Exhibition: 22nd September – 28th October 2017
Artist Talk: Saturday, 23rd September 2017 | 2-4pm
Opening times: Monday – Friday, 10am – 6pm and Saturday, 11am – 5pm
Gallery of African Art (GAFRA) 45 Albemarle Street London W1S 4JL
Nearest Underground Station: Green Park (Jubilee, Piccadilly and Victoria lines)
“We have so much power” – as individuals, human race and women. Thanks to Ronke Lawal for mentioning this in our interview to remind us of who we’re on International Women’s Day. We had the chance to chat with the force of nature that is Ronke Lawal, the founder of Ariatu Pr, a public relations firm that works with entrepreneurs and luxury brands to enhance their media presence. What her business does is truly essential for businesses owned by minorities to establish themselves authentically in the UK marketplace. We have had the privilege to profile some of Ronke’s clients whose business range from beauty, media, fashion and services. Ronke is not just behind the scene equipping and directing her clients, she is at the fore front with them even in meet and greets (We can testify – we’ve seen Ronke at work). Aside from that, she’s no stranger to Social Media, a tool she uses to educate and inform businesses on how they can scale.
In this interview, the PR maven talks hard on being an entrepreneur, how to be your authentic self and how women can stand out. Stay inspired!
Tell us about yourself, including what you do and how you got there?
I am a British Born Nigerian woman, born in Hackney, East London of Nigerian parents I pursued an International Business (Economics) degree graduated with Hons from The University of Lancaster, with a year in The University of Richmond, Virginia. I became self-employed in 2004, I whilst I was in a standard 9 to 5 management role, a role in which many people my age would have been happy to have stayed in for many years. It was an interesting position with lots of responsibility, however I became a robot, unhappy with what my job was turning me into, I was stressed and would often take that stress home with me. My life lacked dynamism and to some extent purpose. I felt strongly that I was not following my true life’s purpose and so I made a choice to start my own business which is definitely not for everyone. Many people thought I was crazy, I was after all only 23 years old and my only starting capital was my savings, I was taking a big risk although thankfully back then I still lived at home so that helped me to save money and reinvest it my business. I wanted to create a life that I loved and by starting my own business I felt that I was able to do that. From the very start of my business career I have loved working with small businesses and that has not changed, I have built up a strong reputation of working with exciting small business, entrepreneurs and start-ups.
What is your favorite part about being an entrepreneur?
There is a sense of freedom that comes with being an entrepreneur, whilst you can’t necessarily just do what you want, your clients are your “bosses” you can define which direction you take your business and journey which is very exciting. It enables one to really seek out one’s core strength and purpose. I love the ability to redefine my own journey and to keep asking myself questions like: what is my purpose?, what am I doing this for? Am I making the best of my gifts?
The theme of this month is absolutely important to me. International Women’s Day celebrates the scientific, political, economic and social achievements of women. What does it signify to you?
It signifies an opportunity to reclaim our power and to shout about it but it is more than a campaign it is an energetic desire to assert change. It is so important that women uplift each other and uplift themselves. We have so much power, you only have to spend a few moments to look within your own network to find a woman who is amazing. You are amazing. I am amazing. WE are amazing. There is a certain energy and inner spirit that women are able to manifest (in fact it is within us all)and it is possibly through the struggles the gender stereotyping can create, which allows women in business to work differently. Women have a lot to balance in life; the perception of maternal instincts being paramount, the request to place ones partners needs ahead of their own, being bound to the notion of home-creation and child-rearing. None of these aspects of feminism are to be taken lightly or are they to be ignored however they cannot be used as shackles for women in a world so full of opportunity. The sexist mandates and restrictions of gender of inequality have held us back for far too long. Whilst it is not easy it is our time to ask for what we want (I made a video about this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrCmapxbqmc)
Were you brought up to believe ambition was important? as a woman?
Yes and in fact whilst my mother encouraged ambition it was my father who truly drove it home, he asked me specifically about my dreams, what I wanted to be, who I wanted to become and he let me know that I could do anything. Not baring in mind that he was still a very traditional Nigerian man those conversations were truly important and signify why it is crucial that men also take up the responsibility of encouraging the women in their network.
How would you define women empowerment? What does it mean to you?
It means being courageous in all aspects of our lives, it means encouraging each other to be the best we can be no matter where we find ourselves. It is instill that sense of belief and power that is within all of us but which is often forgotten.
Access to power and influence is the major key, if women have access to the roles that make a difference, to the opportunities and to the decision makers then the gap will shrink.
What is your biggest influence and/or icon?
Aside from amazing women like Mellody Hobson and Oprah Winfrey, there are many women in my own network who inspire me on a daily basis. I inspire myself!!! I have to, if I don’t believe in myself who will?
What are your main responsibilities and achievements at Ariatu Pr?
I have to take the lead on the PR and communications for a number of my clients, working on strategic development and messaging as well as enhanced media profile Working with all of the business that I have worked with on their PR and communications campaigns has been a true blessing. Every year that my business grows and works with more and more amazing businesses is an achievement for me!
What barriers have you faced, as a woman in your field? How did you overcome them?
Often the biggest barrier has been confidence in myself, as soon as I have been able to overcome any feelings of fear and doubt I have been able to thrive. That “fraud syndrome” is a real problem especially in a field like PR which encourages confidence, you spend a lot of time publicising the achievements of others that it is easy to forget oneself.
What do you think are some of the best ways that companies can support women’s ambition?
By encouraging a safe and fruitful space for growth, ensuring access to opportunity and development and making active points to ensure women feel encouraged throughout all stages of their professional lives, from entry to career breaks, maternity to promotion. It is essential!
What skills do you believe women need to have to stand out.
They need to stand firm and be confident in their skills, they need to speak up and speak out about their successes and their journeys. They need to be authentic and stay true to themselves, not to the ideals of others.
I’m a firm believer that it takes a village – in your career, business and personal affairs.
Who have been your most important professional mentors? I have had many mentors and they have all been important to me so it would be difficult to highlight any particular individuals but I am grateful for the part they have played. Mentoring is very important and can make a huge difference in one’s professional and business growth.
Are you optimistic about the future? Would be great to know why?
Yes, yes and yes! We are in digital age where we can share our stories freely across social media and take control of our narrative – we don’t have to wait for an invitation to speak up anymore we can use all of these platforms to speak up!
If you were to have dinner with 2 women you admire in the world, who would they be? and why?
Mellody Hobson and Oprah Winfrey – Just to spend a few moments in their company to thank them for their inspiration, they have been mentors from afar. I would definitely pay for their meal!! They deserve to be thanked for all that they have done.
What’s next for Ariatu Pr?
To grow, to thrive, to soar! working with bigger and more dynamic clients who just allow me to use my skills to bring out the best in them!
Image Credit: Emerzy Corbin
Inspire to Lead
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