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Art Advocacy for South African Women through London Exhibitions

By Temo Mpodi

A powerful movement of empowerment recently unfolded as the spotlight shined on four talented South African artists from the Eastern Cape, gracing the Bernard Jacobson Gallery in Mayfair, London. In collaboration with One to One Africa and Undiscovered Canvas, this exhibition illuminated the notable ride of women reshaping their destinies and reshaping society.

Dualities Exhibition weaved together the stories of South African women who are using their talent and leadership to transform their own lives and society at large. The story of One to One Africa’s Mentor Mothers, and their work to provide door-to-door maternal and child healthcare is displayed in parallel with the work of Undiscovered Canvas, who amplify the ever-growing talent of young, female, South African artists in a unique residency programme.

“It is a huge effect when our successes are the subject of artworks, meetings and conversation in the centre of London. The exhibition is a celebration we can share with fellow South Africans, many of whom found out about our work for the first time in London.” explained One to One Africa’s Executive Director Gqibelo Dandala.

“Dualities shines an important light on our work,” Gqibelo continued. “There in the last mile communities where close to 70% of people are living in severe poverty, our Mentor Mothers are beating UN targets to deliver an Aids-free generation.”

Undiscovered Canvas founder, Nomaza Nongqunga Coupez, is originally from the small last-mile village of Ngqeleni, where One to One Africa provides a service. She worked in clinical pathology during the height of the HIV pandemic, seeing infection rates rise out of control, there in the lab, and within her own family.

“Art is a voice. And art is a medium to address stigma, to shine a light on misrepresentation and achieve social justice. This is how the exhibition, Dualities, means mobility to me. It means empowering women to live the life they deserve,” says Nomaza Nongqunga Coupez.

Renowned artist Nene Mahlangu honoured the charity’s Mentor Mothers in a special piece, which was exhibited along with exceptional work by fellow artists in the Undiscovered Canvas stable including Lulama Wolf, Nthabiseng Boledi Kekana and Lesego Seoketsa.

“The UN goal to eradicate Aids by 2030 can only be met with a focus on maternal healthcare in remote regions, led at the grassroots by women such as One to One Africa’s Mentor Mothers. It would be great to see this model widely adopted,” explains international film star and One to One Ambassador Naomie Harris. “90% of One to One’s Mentor Mothers are living with HIV. Walking many kilometres between homes. Mentor Mothers are not just delivering health care, they are ambassadors and role models for living positively with HIV. They have removed the profound stigma which was preventing discussion, diagnosis, and sustained use of antiretroviral therapy! These treasured members of local communities are an inspiration to us all.”

These women portray the agency to succeed, to elevate and take control. What a mighty force they are!

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