Simeon Mpamugoh

Piqued by the rising cases of sexual violence in the country, Alexis Galleries, in collaboration with a non-profit organisation, Women At Risk International Foundation (WARIF), is organising its first all-female art expo, “Femme”, to celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, and launch of a campaign on violence against women.

The expo, which opened on March 2, at Alexis Galleries, 282 Akin Olugbade Street, Off Idowu Martins, Victoria Island, Lagos, will close on March 15, 2019. It features about 50 artworks by eleven carefully selected contemporary female
artists from across Nigeria, Cameroon and Benin Republic.

They include DjakouKassi Nathalie, Moufouli Bello, Millicent Okocha, Clara Aden, Doofan Kwahgool, Addis Okoli, Olawunmi Banjo, Olayemi M. Afolabi, Nkechi Abii, Omo Udenta, and Amarachi Odimba.  The event is brought to the art community by consortium sponsors, including Pepsi, Heineken, Mikano, Amarula, Delta Airline, Nederburg, Cobranet Internet Service Provider, Chocolate Royal, The Homestores Limited, and Art Café.

Briefing arts and culture journalists during the preview of some of the works for collection recently in Lagos. Founder and Director, Alexis Galleries, Patty Chidiac-Mastrogiannis, stated that “Femme, with a general theme, ‘Violence Against Women,’ refers to behaviour by an intimate partner or ex-partner that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and domineering behaviours- rape being the most common. Yet women are
often blamed when this takes place, and some keep this to themselves due to shame or stigma.”

While taking a closer look at the titles of some of the artists’ works, Chidiac-Mastrogiannis said they had been affected one way or the other by the subject of the exhibition. She added that part of the   proceeds of the exhibition would be donated to the foundation, and would be co curated by a sculptor/potter, Ato Arinze.

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According to her, “Djakou Kassi Nathalie’s Enough is Enough! and Woman Support Woman, whether you like it or not, conveys deep meanings on violence against women”, while Millicent Okocha’s Dream Paradox, Clara Aden’s Love Me till Death Do Us Part, Doofan Kwahgool’s A Silent World and Our Story, Addis Okoli Shelter, Olawunmi Banjo’s Awakening, and Nkechi Abii’s Female Emotions: (Tears on my pillow) are all saying the same thing in different ways.”

She quoted the United Nations’ definition of violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”
On why her galleries was partnering WARIF on the international expo, she said it was in response to the high incidence of sexual assault, rape and human trafficking occurring among young girls and women across Nigeria, adding that WARIF Advocacy Through Arts (WTA) was a new initiative established to create awareness: change behavioural patterns, and discourage gender based violence in tertiary institutions across Nigeria.

In his view, co-curator, Ato Arinze, said he was thrilled to be invited by the founder of Alexis Galleries to co-curate the exhibition, adding that his job with the artists was mostly more of a networking. “Again, I have an interest in promoting mainly young artists, especially those who don’t have the opportunity to showcase their works,” he noted.

Founder WARIF, Dr. Kemi DaSilva-Ibru, described her organisation as a sexual assault referral centre, established in 2016 to provide a safe haven for survivors of rape and sexual assault adding that it offers free medical care, counseling, shelter and legal aid to victims.

She regretted that in most occasions, the perpetrators of rape were family, and interested members, school authority and somebody most of the women should be able to go to seek protection.

A Cameroonian ceramic artist, DjakouKassi Nathalie, said she was coming to the exhibition with her brand of ceramic works, totally different from what people used to know. The 44-year-old artist, who has spent 20 years in practice, is exhibiting titles that have deep meanings on violence against women.