Performer Young Paris (second from left) entertained guests at the conclusion of the live auction and award ceremony. (Photo: Matteo Prandoni/BFA.com)
May 10, 2017 – The second annual Amref Health Africa ArtBall was a one-of-a-kind event, showcasing the diversity of contemporary art across the continent and raising $225,000 to support lifesaving programs, from midwifery training to infectious disease treatment and prevention.
Curated by Atim Annette Oton, and hosted by Jack Shainman, ArtBall 2017 honored acclaimed Ghanaian artist El Anatsui with the Rees Visionary Award. The theme for this year’s ArtBall was Visionaries, in recognition of the way in which Anatsui’s work facilitates environmental advocacy, while elevating contemporary African art beyond Ghana and into a global cross-cultural exchange.
(Photo: Matteo Prandoni/BFA.com)
The proceeds raised from the benefit auction will support Amref Health Africa’s innovative programs that span across thirty-five countries and build the health systems of thousands of communities. Over 500 guests attended ArtBall this year, including Young Paris, a Congolese, French-born and New York-bred artist who gave a special Afrobeat inspired performance. Liz Rees, daughter of Amref Health Africa’s founder, Dr. Tom Rees, was among those who attended.
“We’re pleased to present El Anatsui with the Rees Visionary Award at this special event tonight, on behalf of the Rees family,” said Liz Rees. “El’s lifetime of work and dedication to the education sector speaks volumes to his belief in the power of sharing knowledge. And that is the same belief that my father founded Amref Health Africa on – that knowledge should be shared, in our case for the betterment of people’s health, of the quality of life.”
(Left to Right) Robert Kelty, Executive Director of Amref Health Africa in the USA; Jack Shainman, owner of Jack Shainman Gallery and patron of the event; and Elizabeth Rees, Amref Health Africa in the USA Board of Director and daughter of founder Thomas Rees. (Photo: Matteo Prandoni/BFA.com)
Rees also went on to mention that as much as her parents cared about healing with medicine, they also appreciated the healing power of art, speaking to her father’s passion for sculpting and creating portraits of the people and animals he cared about.
“It’s an honor to receive this award and support Amref Health Africa’s life changing work in the health space,” said Anatsui. “All of the artists gathered here today are a testament to what passion, talent and pride in one’s heritage can achieve when given the right forum. Through ArtBall, we have all been united through our love for art and our cultures, and our belief that health equality is critical for all.”
Amref Health Africa global CEO, Dr. Githinji Gitahi addressing the crowd on Saturday night. (Matteo Prandoni/BFA.com)
This year, the artists represented 17 countries, including Anatsui’s home of Ghana, as well as Nigeria, Angola, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Kenya, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa.
"Selecting the art pieces for this special event has been very close to my heart,” says Oton, a Nigerian-born, American and British educated designer-turned curator. “Tonight, the stories of many contemporary African artists from across the continent were showcased – from Nigeria to Tanzania, Morocco to South Africa. All of them, regardless of their age or nationality, are Africans who live and breathe art, in all forms.”
The ArtBall not only brought together talented African artists from across the continent, but it directly supports the impactful work that Amref Health Africa has been conducting for over 60 years.
“It’s absolutely amazing to see so many people here, joined together in support of the work we do,” said Bob Kelty, Executive Director for Amref Health Africa in the U.S. “The generosity and passion of our contributing artists this year is simply indescribable, and we are grateful to all of our partners, donors, and volunteers who made night possible.”