Supermodel, designer, and maternal health advocate Liya Kebede and artist and ArtBall honoree Wangechi Mutu. (Photo: Hunter Abrams/BFA)
June 20, 2016 – The inaugural Amref Health Africa ArtBall took place on June 8 in New York City. ArtBall is a one-of-a-kind event that brought together over thirty contemporary African artists from across the continent to donate artwork that was auctioned off in support of Amref Health Africa. The benefit featured artists from various age groups and cultural backgrounds, who all work in a variety of mediums and styles. Curated by Atim Annette Oton, ArtBall honored acclaimed Kenyan artist, Wangechi Mutu, with the Rees Humanitarian Award for her work celebrating and empowering African communities.
Proceeds from the ArtBall will support Amref Health Africa’s innovative programs that span across thirty-five countries and build the health systems of thousands of communities. Liz and Tom Rees, Jr., children of Amref Health Africa’s founder, Tom Rees, were among those who attended.
“We’re pleased and honored to have created this award and to present it to Wangechi Mutu at this special event on behalf of the Rees family,” said Liz Rees. “Our parents taught us to care about our fellow beings across the world, as well as at home. In this day and age, this concern is more and more critical, both from a humanitarian and pragmatic point of view. We are one world and that which affects one, affects all.”
Entrance to the event on Bleecker St in New York City. (Photo: Hunter Abrams/BFA)
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.
Amref Health Africa also created the Wangechi Mutu Alternative Rites Education Scholarship, which will send 35 girls who have escaped Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) to school.
"Art is my voice and my sanctuary,” said honoree Wangechi Mutu. "Through my Art, I'm able to manifest new forms of who We can be and to reimagine powerful ways of existing. It is a privilege to be recognized amongst other artists and to know that our work is valued."
The artists represented 11 countries, including Mutu’s home of Kenya, as well as Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania. Each artist was firmly established in the field, with many being masters of the trade.
(Photo: Hunter Abrams/BFA)
"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. Contributing artists for this year’s ArtBall included George Lilanga (Tanzania), Paa Joe (Ghana), Esther Mahlangu (South Africa), Michael Soi (Kenya) and Ibou Ndoye (Senegal).
“Tonight was an amazing tribute to the work we do on so many levels,” said Bob Kelty, Executive Director for Amref Health Africa in the U.S. “From the collaboration by so many artists from across Africa to the socially aware crowd that has gathered here today to support our work, we’re grateful to everyone who was involved to make this event a success. It will definitely help us foster a closer sense of community here in New York and raise awareness about the sustainable health work we do throughout Africa.”