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Artists against gender violence celebrate International Women’s Day 2019

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Gender violence and other social conflicts form the base on which 13 female artists are celebrating the 2019 International Women’s Day.

From Nigeria, Cameroun 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 incurred by victims.

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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 show is coming about six months after the gallery dedicated another exhibition to celebrate breast cancer month.

Patty Chidiac-Mastrogiannis, founder and director, Alexis Galleries, noted that Femme is first time a show will be dedicated to just female artists at Alexis.

She added that the gallery is mostly interested in the subject, as “we believe that a lot of women are regularly bashed by men, mentally.”

One of works lined-up for the show, which was presented during a preview, depicts the journey of hope and truncated dream of a lady fresh in marriage.

Titled, Till Death Do Us Part and rendered in minimal drawing, the piece cautions the woman.

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, “some women are not happy inside the marriage, yet concealing the challenges confronting them.”

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Perhaps, speaking for most women with older experience in marriage, another artist, Nkechi, a mother of three, argued that woman are the society’s strength. “We are strong mentally and emotionally.”

But she des 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, preferred collaboration among women as a remedy.

This is explained in her work titled, Woman Support Woman. Nathaniel advised, “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,” she said.

The organisation’s focus, she added, include discouraging gender based violence in tertiary institutions across Nigeria.

DaSilva-Ibru explained her WARIF’s efforts in areas of awareness and managing victims, noting that one in four girls are affected before age 18, according to UNICEF 2015 report; however, she revealed that WARIF has its independent and local findings.

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“We are not just relying on UNICEF numbers but making our own research and findings,” she said, adding, ‘family members, school authority are targets of the organisation’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. “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 the 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 show was an attraction for him. Also, he noted, “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.

On measures the organisation has adopted, she disclosed: “We engage local midwives to do our rural community work.”

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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