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Female artists demand better recognition, gender parity

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Some of the participating artists

Not less than 49 female artists, with about 200 art lovers, recently gathered at Nike Art Gallery, Lekki, Lagos, for the exhibition of Female Artists Association of Nigeria (FEAAN), which was in its seventh edition.

The event marked the association’s 16th anniversary and celebration of International Women’s Day 2018 that had ‘Press for Progress’ as theme.

For the association, the theme was ‘Women Move On,’ aimed at encouraging womenfolk to be resilient, determined and focused even in the face of challenges and difficulties so as to be successful.

The themes etched boldly in most of the works that were on display, as each highlighted a particular issue affecting women.

The works ranged from sculptures, ceramics, painting, textiles and fibre art with each wowing the teeming audience that had thronged the venue.
 
President of FEAAN, Mrs. Ngozi Akande, said through the exhibition the female artists would advocate for gender parity, adding, “All we are asking, with this art exhibition, is gender parity, gender equality; that everybody should be treated fairly, that there shouldn’t be any discrimination between the male and female gender.” 
 
She also spoke on how the association has empowered female artists, “We have collaborated with a lot of embassies – the French embassy, the Chinese embassy, the American embassy and with these collaborations, we have been able to send two of our members to China for an art workshop. We have also been able to sponsor another two to study at the University of Abuja.

These have made them to improve and harness their skills so as to compete or be better than their male counterparts anywhere in the world.”

Akande also spoke on the challenges the group has been facing, saying, “The association has not gotten enough support from the government.

National Gallery of Arts has been sponsoring this exhibition, but for sometime now, because of scarcity of fund, the sponsorship has ceased. This has made us to move from collaborations with government to the embassies.”

Pioneer president of FEAAN, Prof. Bridget Nwanze, explained why the association was formed and the impact it has had on its members: “When I became the president of Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA) in Rivers State, I knew I had a task to fulfill.

I battled a little with the male counterparts and they thought I was trying to segregate between the male and female artists. My only reason was because I saw that the women were sleeping away.

Only the male were active, and I felt a little bit worried about it. And we felt that the best way to make the women active was to bring them into an association.

“So, we formed Female Artists Association of Nigeria. And we are glad that it has yielded good fruits because, in the past, to get female artists to come for exhibitions was a problem. But now, every female artist is struggling to register with the association for art exhibitions and they have become very successful in it.”

Nwanze, however, was of the belief that women were not being cheated, but that they were yet to maximise their fulfill potential for their own gains: “I don’t believe that women are cheated. If you want to make it, you will make it. I am a professor; men are also professors. Did my being a female minimise my getting to that level? No!

So, if you shy away from taking full control of your destiny simply because you are a woman, you will end up regretting. No sentiment about it.”
 
One of the exhibiting artists said her work, titled ‘Women in Technology,’ focuses on the need for women to be deeply involved in information and communication technology (ICT): “Only 20 per cent of technology jobs are being dominated by the women, but we have a lot of men in major technology companies. 

So, I believe that there is need for a digital upscale for the women. I believe that if women are empowered in the digital world, they will do greater things.

“Female Artists Association of Nigeria is a wonderful platform. I have been with the association for years. I love what they are doing for the female artists, getting our creative artworks and bringing them to limelight.

“I don’t believe it will take long before female artists can measure up with the male artists. This is because there was a time I contested in an art competition in Norway. Not only was I a Nigerian, but I was also a female artist. I decided not to let that weigh me down and not surprising to me, I won the competition.

Therefore, the standard of female artists in comparison to their male counterparts is not a matter of the future. It is already happening now. This does not, however, mean that we are in competition with the men. We complement each other.”

Co-coordinator of FEEAN, South West zone, Mrs. Ayoola Omovo, also spoke about her work, which she titled ‘Progress.’

She said, “Women, girls have to take a stand to press for their progress. No individual or group of people will promote, invest and believe in you if you don’t value yourself first and position yourself in the right direction to earn respect and be appreciated for who you are!”


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