UN Women presents ‘A Force for Change’, an art exhibition and auction featuring work by 26 Black women artists, benefitting Black women

UN Women, the agency of the United Nations dedicated to gender equality and women’s empowerment, will host the first all-Black, all-women global selling exhibition and auction titled “A Force for Change”, with proceeds benefiting Black women across the world and the participating artists.

Open to the public 27–31 July 2021 at 530 W 25th Street, New York, NY 10001, the exhibition includes 26 works by prominent and emerging female artists of African descent to recognize and elevate awareness of the transformative power of Black women’s art in social justice movements, and to support UN Women’s nascent global Black Women’s Programme. Works by artists Cinthia Sifa Mulanga, Tschabalala Self, Sungi Mlengeya, Wangari Mathenge, Zanele Muholi, and Selly Rabe Kane are included, among many others. The exhibition will be accompanied by online discussions on the role of artists in social justice movements and Black Women and the Art Market.

Cinthia Sifa Mulanga, “Self-sureness”, 2021. Mixed media on stretched canvas, 84cm x 118cm.
Cinthia Sifa Mulanga, “Self-sureness”, 2021. Mixed media on stretched canvas, 84cm x 118cm.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, said: “Racial justice and gender inequality are not separate but integrally linked—and UN Women’s work prioritizes both. Through the global Black Women Programme, and this exhibition that will raise funding for that work, we will support Black women’s movements and organizations in different parts of the world to foster closer ties and give greater power to their voice and actions.”

Works in the exhibition are offered for sale on Artsy, the largest global online art marketplace, from 16 July to 30 July 2021, with the auction ending at 2pm EDT on 30 July 2021. Fifty per cent of the proceeds will go toward launching UN Women’s nascent global Black Women Programme, designed to connect women of African descent in Africa and the Diaspora through comprehensive programming around economic empowerment in the creative industries; connect women’s movements across the Diaspora to strengthen their voices, action, and impact; and address violence against women.

As a deliberate effort to raise awareness of the global gender pay gap and the value of women’s work, the other 50 per cent will go directly to the artist. Furthermore, to protect the artists, buyers will pledge not to sell the work for at least five years; give artists the right of first refusal on resale; and give artists 15 per cent of the sale price if works are sold.

Tonni Ann Brodber, UN Women Caribbean Multi-Country Office Representative, said: “Our ambition for a global programme on race and gender is firmly grounded in the arts. Our office in Barbados has for some time been working with musicians, understanding that their expression and reach are important avenues for changing norms and stereotypes. Creatives, in all their diversity, these are the ones leading the way.”

Erin Jenoa Gilbert, Curator and Art Advisor, added: “Though the abstract and figurative works presented in this exhibition were composed by women of great linguistic and aesthetic diversity, their works are statements of survival and of solidarity. Subversively challenging the status quo, these images symbolically connect the concurrent civil and human rights movements in Africa, the Caribbean, South and Central America, Europe, and the United States. This exhibition simultaneously offers a glimpse into the past and the future as reimagined by women of African descent. The empowered images of women, presented by the artists in this exhibition, evidence the influence of intersectionality and the inextricable ties between women across the African diaspora.”

Wangari Mathenge, “The Ascendants XII (And Still I Rise)”, 2021. Oil on canvas, 163cm x 159cm.
Wangari Mathenge, “The Ascendants XII (And Still I Rise)”, 2021. Oil on canvas, 163cm x 159cm.

“A Force for Change” is intergenerational, international, and interdisciplinary. Born between 1935 and 1997, the artists in this exhibition currently live and work in South Africa, Senegal, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Barbados, Brazil, Somalia, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Presenting nuanced counter-narratives to the mainstream media’s presentation of women of African descent, the exhibition includes photography, painting, drawing, sculpture, and film in which the central character is the Black woman.

The exhibition includes works by the following artists:

  1. Tschabalala Self (b. 1990), USA
  2. Akosua Adoma Owusu (b. 1984), Ghana/USA
  3. Andrea Chung (b. 1978), Jamaica
  4. Phoebe Boswell (b. 1982), Kenya/UK
  5. Wura Natasha Ogunji (b. 1970), Nigeria/USA
  6. Sungi Mlengeya (b. 1991), Tanzania
  7. Shinique Smith (b. 1971), USA
  8. Deborah Roberts (b. 1962), USA
  9. Rosana Paulino (b. 1967), Brazil
  10. Janaina Barros, Brazil
  11. Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi (b. 1980), South Africa
  12. Zohra Opoku (b. 1976), Ghana
  13. Esther Mahlangu (b. 1935), South Africa
  14. Ayan Farah (b. 1978), Somalia
  15. Nandipha Mntambo (b. 1982), South Africa
  16. Selly Raby Kane, Senegal
  17. Zina Saro Wiwa (b. 1976), Nigeria
  18. Wangari Mathenge (b. 1973), Kenya
  19. Virginia Chihota (b. 1983), Zimbabwe
  20. Cinthia Sifa Mulanga (b. 1997), Democratic Republic of the Congo
  21. Yelaine Rodriguez, Dominican Republic
  22. Cassi Namoda (b. 1988), Mozambique
  23. Sheena Rose (b. 1985), Barbados
  24. Joiri Minaya (b. 1990), Dominican Republic
  25. Joana Choumali (b. 1974), Ivory Coast
  26. Zanele Muholi (b. 1974), South Africa

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