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With Bald is Beautiful, cancer gets artistic face

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‘Warrior’ by Kesa Babatunde

When nine artists recently exhibited their works in solidarity with cancer patients, the stigma attached to the scourge was demystified. The artists used their art to inspire cancer patients to be more courageous in the fight for survival.

Organised by Bricom Foundation, a cancer awareness group, the art show titled, Bald is Beautiful, which held at the Alexis Galleries, Victoria Island, Lagos, applied the analogy of getting abundance in the face of nothing. In diverse techniques and styles of paintings, which included mixed media, the artists celebrated survivors of cancer, created awareness and counselled those already battling for survival.

Making its debut as a yearly show in support of cancer awareness, the event featured paintings and mixed media by Joseph Bidemi, Oluwole Omofemi, Olasunkanmi Oyelusi, Darlington Chukwumezie, Akeem Dada, David Olatunde, Kesa Babatunde, Samuel Olayombo and Akinbanji Osanyemi.

Babatunde’s Warrior, a portrait of an unidentified young woman in native apparels and accessories, suggests someone preparing for war in physical sense. Yes, the artist knows that it takes medical assistance to survive cancer and not any form of charms. However, the boldness being expressed in the painting, he explained, “inspires those with cancer to survive.”

Other works by Babatunde in the group show include, Inner Strength and Blossoms. “Facing cancer challenge does not mean they cannot live,” the artists said.

Olasunkanmi showed Nothing Can Determine My Joy, a series of three paintings. The artist argued, “sadness can make people miserable and die so soon, but even with a disease, you can survive longer so long you are hopeful.”

For Olayombo, Hot Shot I am, I believe I will Dance Again and Hey Days is Near were his works at the show. The artist disclosed how one of the works was inspired by “story of a girl who had illness that stressed the point that we need to support people living with the terminal.”

Olatunde’s contributions to the show included two paintings and one wood panel. One of the works titled, Not A Child’s Play, depicts strokes of brush that look like a child attempting to paint on canvas.

Buried inside the strokes, however, is a faint image of a woman living with cancer. “The painting tells us the challenge that cancer patients go through.”

Another work of his titled, Yes, We Can, also an abstract work, but has image of a dancing woman to suggest that there is life after cancer. And also shown is Stronger Together (wood), in which the artist explains a family, which collectively fights cancer battle.

The artists said showing in the exhibition was not about monetary value or getting attention, but satisfaction in contributing to a cause. “We feel glad that our works are being used as parts of proceeds for giving,” Babatunde said.

“We are hoping to do this show every year as Bald is Beautiful is our way of saying your hair does not define you,” Mrs. Patty Chidiac Mastrogiannis, founder and director Alexis Galleries assured.

“Part of the proceeds will be donated to Bricon Foundation, which supports patients and their families battling with cancer through counselling, education and advocacy, and assistance with sourcing funds for treatment.”

Co-founder of Bricon, Abigail Simon-Hart, explained that the NGO helps manage the social economic complexity of cancer. “If you are dying, it’s better to stay in peace and dignity until death comes.”

She recalled her experience detecting breast cancer in 2014. She disclosed that there was no major treatment. “I just took drugs for four years.” She, however, had to let go a part of her body to stay alive.

“We need to change our perception that cancer is not manageable,” Simon-Hart warned. “A woman is much more than the breast,” she explained, advising, “removal of breast saves your life first before talking about anything else.”

She argued that if the cancer is removed, “breast surgery cosmetics can be done and yet no one knows except those you told.”

She said her foundation trains over 200 personnel to handle victims. The journey was inspired by Simon-Hart’s survival story. After her treatment Bricon assessed the Nigeria situation for cancer patients and was “alarmed by the lack of sufficient support structures (counselling and advice), equipment, financial assistance.” More worrisome, the group said it discovered that there was lack of trained medical personnel to handle the rising numbers of cancer patients in Nigeria.

She noted that whilst screening and advocacy continue to bring cancer patients to the fore, the treatment centres and support structures couldn’t cope with the rising volumes of victims. The group said it was important to address the different areas of cancer care to ensure that patients who carry cancer, have where to go to receive care, and more importantly can afford to have this care at all.”

Alexis noted that as the exhibition marked its 18th show since opening in 2011, Mastrogiannis boasted that “we are a gallery that gives back, not just to the cause of cancer, we have also done residency for artists.”


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