I founded Art Represent nearly a year ago to become a platform that showcases the immense talent of artists affected by conflict worldwide, and to challenge the stereotypes associated with the regions and communities that our artists are from.
As an organisation, we are really clear in not wanting to avoid the term conflict, because conflict does hinder cultural development and infrastructure. At the same time, the communities and individuals affected by conflict become defined or fetishised by their experience through what we see in popular media. The prevailing narrative creates harmful stereotypes that limits artists from being recognised for their talent and work, but rather pigeon-holed by their background.
As we close our inaugural exhibition with the artist Malina Suliman, our mission could not be more true. Malina happens to be a female artist who started her career in Afghanistan as a graffiti artist, and one of the first artists we began working with, and so we wanted her show to be our first. However, it did make us reflect on just how few female artists are internationally recognised and celebrated. Especially those coming from communities affected by conflict.
As a woman, you often face glass ceilings that tell you what you can or cannot do. In the western art world, women's status remains unequal to their male counterparts (Artnews). As a woman living in a community affected by systematic and violent oppression, the challenges can be even greater. Not just in terms of traditional gender roles, or lack of infrastructure, but also in terms of what people expect from you - the work you create, the focus of your subject, even your credibility as an artist.
With this month's focus on our female artists, we hope to offer you a wider perspective on female artists affected by conflict.