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Artists Using Their Art Mediums to Advocate for Women’s Rights

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For decades, women have been in pursuit of equal rights and inclusion in the affairs of the state. According to Art in context, the Feminist art movement became a mainstream during the 1960s as a cultural reaction to the male-dominated society that had previously controlled the art world. The feminist artists at the time sought to change the narrative and worked in ways that gave women a place to be heard in society. Some resulted in fighting on the side of politics and others preferred to use their talents to express their in-depth desire for inclusion where they could express themselves and engage with the world through encouraging various social and political conversations.

Although feminism is mainly associated with women, this list not only includes African women, the largest sufferers of systematic injustice in Africa, it also showcases the men who self-identify as male feminists.

Here are some feminist artists taking up this space.

Nana Kofi Acquah

Nana Kofi Acquah is a Ghanian photographer, blogger and poet, who identifies as a male feminist. He hopes that his photography, which features diverse images of African women, will shift the narrative surrounding women in Africa. He says his mission is to change the narrative around African women where they are often portrayed as victims of circumstance.

Nana is a recipient of several awards for his work. In 2016, his photo was part of the ten images presented in a handmade book as a gift from Instagram to the Pope at the Vatican; and he was recently listed by Shutterstock as one of the 100 photographers worth following on Instagram.

From the series Mosquito Girl – Image courtesy of Kalamu

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Lady Skollie

Lady Skollie (1987) is an award-winning feminist artist and activist from Cape Town, South Africa. Skollie uses her practice as a platform to address issues around sex, gender, race, and the politics of identity. In her watercolor paintings and crayon and ink drawings, Skollie uses humor to critique patriarchal systems and gender-based violence and spark conversations around pleasure and consent. She received her BA in art history and Dutch literature from the University of Cape Town in 2009; her work has been exhibited throughout South Africa and was presented at 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair in 2016.

Objectify thyself before others do, 2016, Ink on fabriano, 104 × 73 × 1 cm – Image courtesy of Artsy

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Billie Zangewa

Birthday Party, 2020, Embroidered silk, 141 x 137 cm – Image courtesy of Ocula

Billie Zangewa (born in 1973) is a half Malawian half South African artist who hand sews silk fabrics to create collage tapestries. The Johannesburg-based artist celebrates and explores femininity and identity through textile works expressing her own personal experience. Zangewa’s work is autobiographical and centralizes Black femininity and everyday domesticity and motherhood. Her artistic approach is indicative of the artist’s expressing resistance to the oppression she faces through self-love.

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Miriam Syowia Kyambi

Fracture (i), 2011, Multimedia installation/performance – Image courtsey of Artsy

Kyambi (b. 1979 in Nairobi) is an interdisciplinary artist and curator who works across photography, video, drawing, sound, sculpture and performance installation. A lot of her work takes apart and brings into question issues of race, discernment, orientation and memory, inspecting the influences of constructed history, colonialism on the modern society. Her current practice is geared towards performance, exploring personal relationships and cultural identities, linking them to issues of loss, longing, race and exploring women’s roles in society

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Bardi Osobuanomola Catherine is a budding storyteller. Her academic credentials include a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Benin. She has contributed to numerous Art publications across Africa. She is currently a Writer for Art News Africa.

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