On May 6, in New York, City, Amref Health Africa will hold its annual ArtBall. Amref Health Africa is an organization dedicated to finding solutions for African health challenges. The event will bring together African artists of many different genres. Nigerian-born Atim Annette Oton, designer, writer, curator and entrepreneur, is Amref Health Africa’s curator for this year’s ArtBall. We spoke to Oton about her many different passions, and involvement with Amref Health Africa.
You have so many different talents, from design, to writing and curating. What drives your passion for your work?
Curiosity, learning and versatility. I am incredibly curious about art, design and people. I have a huge thirst for knowledge. My life experiences, education and professional engagement have allowed me to passionately engage in versatility in a way that I realized came from my parents who made it possible.
What draws you to a project?
I am drawn to projects that have challenges that need a solution. I want to be the one who provides that response and an answer. I think it comes from my architecture education. I was trained to be a solutions provider while listening to a client’s needs.
How does your Nigerian background impact your work and goals?
I was born in Nigeria with unusual parents, my father, a Nigerian journalist who was Pan Africanist and focused on building his country. And my mother, an American born, Trinidadian and Jamaican educator and social worker who both raised me to be a proud accomplished Nigerian woman who took the best out of all cultures but emphasized Nigerian as the most vital to me.
Being Nigerian means to be the best, smartest, most versatile and a risk taker. I am an old-school Nigerian, content and of substance, diligent and hardworking, and above all, creative, innovative and dynamic. I am like my parents, a passionate incisive go-getter.
How did you get involved in Amref Health Africa’s ArtBall?
I was recommended to Amref Health Africa by the event producer, Natalie Kates. She called me about the event. I knew a little about the organization in New York but was fascinated by their core mission about training African health workers. That resonated with me because I believe Africans can solve their issues through education.
Can you tell us a little about the exhibit you’ve curated for the event this upcoming Saturday?
The selection of African artists was strategic, as I focused on giving the audience and collectors a range of emerging, established and well-known artists. The goal was to have work that showcased the range of talents, variety of themes, skills and topics concerning women and healthcare. Ivorian artist Mederic Turay, who is based in Morocco, painted a piece about the need for water in Africa, while I commissioned Kenyan-American artist Jamilla Okubo to do a special piece on African Women’s health, and a special donation by a collector of the work of Malick Sidibe.
The auction also has some amazing work from women artists: Wangechi Mutu, Tracey Rose, Nnenna Okore and Esther Mahlangu. Some outstanding work came from Armand Boua, Victor Ehikhamenor, Paa Joe, Tahir Carl Karmali and Atta Kwami.
I worked with a cadre of galleries, collectors, host committee members and artists who donated their pieces to honor El Anatsui and I am forever grateful for their generosity, time and kindness to me and their support of Amref Health Africa and the work the organization does.
What do you hope people will take away from the work at this event?
I hope people will see and understand the incredible talent, range and versatile styles of contemporary African art and artists. Most importantly, Africa is beauty, pose and spectacular, unlike the negative images and stereotypes that are often shown. I want people to see what artists can teach them about Africa.
What gives you inspiration when you first start curating a project for Amref?
African Artists and artists are my inspiration. The opportunity to showcase their work, their voices and talents to an American and a global audience makes me work extremely hard on this project. Storytelling is the other inspiration. I wanted their stories, experiences and lives exposed through the work they did and continue to do.
What do you think makes you a powerful, impactful woman?
I am an African storyteller, I begin with ideas, themes and concepts, connect the dots, envision and realize projects. As a curator, I am a visionary and creator of content and communities.
ABOUT AMREF HEALTH AFRICA
Amref Health Africa is an international African organization founded and headquartered in Kenya. Amref Health Africa works with the most vulnerable African communities through its country programs in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, and its Southern Africa and West Africa regional hubs based in South Africa and Senegal respectively. With over half a century of experience in delivering health care and building health systems in Africa, Amref Health Africa supports those at the heart of the communities, particularly women and children, to bring about lasting health change.
ABOUT THE #AmrefArtBall
The second annual Amref Health Africa ArtBall is a benefit event being held on Saturday, May 6 in New York City. All proceeds will benefit the grassroots health initiatives that Amref Health Africa supports. Artworks have been donated from contemporary African artists from all over the world, including Laolu Senbanjo, Gastineau Massamba, Paa Joe, Atta Kwami, Armand Boua, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, Mederic Turay, Anne Mwiti, Patrick Mukabi, Tahir Carl Karmali, Pascal Chuma, Soly Cisse, Esther Mahlangu, George Lilanga, and Saidou Dicko.
To see more of Oton’s work, go to https://atimannetteoton.com/about/
To learn more about Amref Health, go to http://www.amrefusa.org