Female Artists Association of Nigeria (FEAAN) –South West zone – recently commemorated its 15th anniversary with a major exhibition held at Nike Arts Gallery, Lekki, Lagos. It also coincided with the International Women’s Day 2017 celebration that had ‘Be Bold for Change’ as theme. For the female artists also, the theme was ‘Women Arise,’ which situated women in the vanguard of social re-engineering for a better world order for their kind.
The event attracted art lovers from all walks of life, both locally and internationally. On display were over 100 art works from over 40 female artists. The works ranged from painting, sculpture, ceramics, textiles and fibre art that engaged the viewing pleasure of everyone present.
The two themes – ‘Be bold for change’ and ‘Women Arise’ – were evidently seen throughout most of the works on display, with each pointing to a particular issue pertaining to the womenfolk.
President of FEAAN, Mrs. Ngozi Akande, said with this year’s exhibition, the women took bold steps through their works to accelerate gender parity and ensure a more gender-inclusive world, adding, “Through our art works, we are speaking with one voice and demanding women inclusion in governance, zero tolerance against genital mutilation, cessation of violence against women and freedom for women to aspire to any position they want.”
Further Akande said: “We initiated this association when we realised that women, after getting married, are not able to continue producing art works. This platform provides them the opportunity to learn and be more productive. We also teach the younger women, and carry them along.”
According to her, FEAAN was growing by the day as more women were coming out to showcase their talent, noting; “Every year, they look forward to this event, producing works to fit the theme. Society of Nigeria Artists (SNA) has just a few women as members, who are active, and we thought having an exclusive women association would make it easier for them to participate.”
An art collector, who is widely believed to have the largest collection of Nigerian artworks, Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon, was also there to lend his voice. According to him, what the women had done was worth commending, and called on the Nigerian government to support and encourage the women, as their work might as well be the solution to the country’s staggering economy.
As he noted, “Art is very important to our country. We cannot compete with the outside world in technology as we are far behind. The art is where we have economic advantage and we must seize the opportunity to project ourselves to the world.”
Shyllon further advised younger women to learn from the older ones, and urged men to give women the opportunity to explore. He said: “Women educate the world; they give birth to us. So, if a woman believes in arts, then there is greater hope for Nigeria. Art is a passion and shouldn’t disturb family life; it helps you to run your home because children who grew up in a creative environment tend to do better.”
Representing the First Lady of Lagos State, Mrs. Bolanle Ambode was Mrs. Omoniyi Ososanya, who stressed that women’s contribution to national development was highly recommended. She said, “The creativity of your members has brought positive change to the nation and led to the promotion of arts. This activity will further promote the art sector. The theme of this year’s Women Day is a clear clarion call for women to come together to contribute their quota to the development of the country. What these women have done today is a thing of pride to womanhood.”
Also, the pioneer president of FEAAN, Prof. Bridget Nwanze, expressed satisfaction that unlike in the past, women were now making giant strides and having their lives transformed as they freely practice their art and demonstrate great talent in a profession that was formerly considered prerogatives of the men.
Art promoter and collector, Sandra Obiago, said she was delighted that world’s Women’s Day was being celebrated in such a grand style with the showcasing of Nigerian female artists, who are really making their mark in the global art scene.
One of the artists and radical feminist, Queen Nwaneri, said her work, ‘Light up our Girls’ Series 1-3 “Belongs to a body of work inspired by events that surround the girl-child with regards to her rights to education and marriage. By extension, the works interrogate salient societal issues relegating women to the background in our society.
“It is often the case that girls are not given the same opportunity as the boys, and they are largely seen as people, who are not capable of thinking or navigating their destiny without a man’s direction. Her education is truncated by forceful marriage, and more so to a far older man and anything but her choice. It does appear that the girl-child is only fancied as a beautiful baby-making factory that should not be seen to compete with men in aspiring to exalted positions in the society.
“I have deliberately obscured the faces of my subjects to de-emphasise that physical beauty, while forcing the viewer to pay more attention to the mood, texture and other aspects of the work for meaning. This is a form of protest, which contemplates how the woman can assert herself and obtain her rights in the society without any feminist coloration.”