Wangechi Mutu to be honored at inaugural Amref Health Africa ArtBall

Ladies Night, 2015 by Doba Afolabi is one of over 30 pieces to be auctioned off at the inaugural ArtBall on June 8.


June 8, 2016 – Over thirty African artists from around the world have come together to donate contemporary African artworks for auction at the Amref Health Africa ArtBall, set to take stage today. The benefit event – the first of its kind – will feature artists from various age groups and cultural backgrounds, who all work in a variety of mediums and styles. Curated by Atim Annette Oton, the ArtBall will honor acclaimed Kenyan artist, Wangechi Mutu with the Rees Humanitarian Award for her work celebrating and empowering African communities.


Patrons of the event include El Anatsui and Dr. Massimiliano del Ninno, and will be hosted by award-winning writer, producer and news anchor Carol Jenkins, Ethiopian supermodel, designer and maternal health advocate Liya Kebede, and acclaimed gallery owner, Jack Shainman.


Founded almost sixty years ago and headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, Amref Health Africa is the largest African-based health development non-profit in the world, creating and strengthening health systems at the grassroots level. Proceeds from the ArtBall will help raise funds for Amref Health Africa’s innovative programmes that span across thirty-five countries and build the health systems of thousands of communities.


Eight artists participating in the ArtBall are based in New York, expressing pride in the city, and their African roots (Doba Afolabi, Eto Otitigbe, Ify Chiejina, Ibou Ndoye, Claude Gomis, Tahir Carl Kimani, and TAFA). Some like Imo Nse Imeh, a previous New York resident, is now teaching in Massachusetts. The remaining artists represent 11 countries, including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania. 


"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 event has grown into a massive gathering of supporters behind Amref Health Africa’s work, from the benefit and host committee members to the artists themselves – many who have come in personally to the New York office to deliver their artworks.


"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 will be 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 Amref ArtBall will consist of a special live auction, an award ceremony, entertainment, food and open bar, as well as boutique wine and liquor tastings. A silent auction, hosted by Paddle8, was launched two weeks ago.


Dr. Massimilliano del Ninno, one of the patrons for the event and owner of Kyo Noir Studio in Viterbo, Italy, has been key in donating artwork from his own personal collection, and bringing together some of the generous artists who have also donated.


“These artists hold special love for their country, sharing their wealth with their people through the art they created. Legends like George Lilanga from Tanzania and Esther Mahlangu from South Africa all have given worldwide exposure to contemporary African Art,” dr. del Ninno says. “I am convinced that this auction will contribute significantly to support Amref Health Africa’s work and highlight the great potential of African art in the contemporary world.”


The ArtBall not only brings together talented African artists from across the continent, but it directly supports the work that Amref Health Africa has been doing for over 60 years.


“From training midwives in Africa to ensure safe pregnancies and childbirth to empowering communities to strengthen their own health systems, we really do work at the grassroots level and make a positive, long lasting impact,” says Bob Kelty, Executive Director for Amref Health Africa in the U.S. “Tonight we’re truly witnessing the power of art, and how it has brought together so many talented artists for this cause. We’re looking forward to hosting an amazing event that represents the diversity of contemporary African art, right here in New York City.”


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