On February 25, 2023 at 26 Bridge in Brooklyn, NY, Amref Health Africa will host their annual ArtBall event and adjoining art auction, creating a connection between African culture and philanthropy to celebrate and highlight the talent of the African continent. This year Amref Health Africa will honor world-renowned Ethiopian artist Julie Mehretu with the Rees Visionary Award.
Amref is the largest non-profit in the African region and provides healthcare through initiatives across the continent.
ArtBall features African, African-American, and diaspora art and entertainment. All food and beverages served are from award-winning Black-owned vendors and guests will also enjoy an installation and an award ceremony. The event has grown from just over 300 attendees to nearly 800 with an emphasis on the African diaspora. Notable hosts and guests have included Solange, Swizz Beatz, Alicia Keys, Chris Rock, Antwaun Sargent, Kimberly Drew, Hank Willis Thomas, Isolde Brielmaier, Shantell Martin, Nina Chanel Abney, Jack Shainman, Young Paris, and many more.
The auction will consist of around 30 pieces of contemporary African, Pan-African and American art from emerging and established black artists. The ArtBall auction will run via Artsy from February 13-27, 2023. The proceeds of the auction will benefit Amref’s programming in Ethiopia. Past auction artists have included Wangechi Mutu, Amoako Boako, Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, Awol Erizku, and more.
Culbytes sat down with Emily Correale, Director, Development and Communications, at
Amref Health Africa in the USA to learn more about all the exciting initiatives this year.
When and why did you get involved with the art world?
We have a maternal and child health program in Iten, Kenya. Iten is home to the High-Altitude Training Centre where some of the greatest runners in the world come to train. One day in 2015, my boss and I were discussing how many of these runners are Kenyan, or from across Africa, and about the sheer amount of talent in general that comes out of the continent. From there, the conversation evolved into talking about the emergence of contemporary African art as something that was on the rise. Next thing you know, the idea of the ArtBall fundraising event and art auction was created!
Give us an overview of Amref. Hope long has it been around? What is your mission?
Amref Health Africa (Amref) is the largest Africa-based nonprofit in the world. We run healthcare programs across 35 countries, and last year reached over 20 million people. Our headquarters are in Nairobi, Kenya and 97% of our global staff are African. Our mission is to transform African healthcare from within. We have been on the ground since 1957 – over 65 years!
How can people get involved and help?
The best way to get involved is to become a donor and attend our events!
Walk us through the ArtBall. What will the gala look like this year?
We are returning on February 25, 2023 after a couple years off due to COVID-19. We can’t wait to get back on the dancefloor and celebrate all things Amref, Africa, and Black and African art! This year the event will include an interactive installation featuring one of our programs in Ethiopia called Kefeta, which is all about empowering youth and reimaging their futures. It will also include an award ceremony where artist Julie Mehretu will be honored with the Rees Visionary Award, an art installation with the art that is up for auction, West and East African food, an open bar that includes Ethiopian beer, and a special performance by Chop and Quench aka The Fela! Band… with more to come!
At the ArtBall this year, you are fundraising for your new program Kefeta. What is Kefeta?
In partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), we launched Kefeta last year, a project across 18 major cities in Ethiopia that aims to empower Ethiopian youths to advance their economic, civic, and social opportunities. Kefeta, which means “to elevate” in Ethiopia’s Amharic language, is creating a nationwide network of services to reach two million young people aged 15-29 by 2026. Services include establishing and remodeling youth hubs, establishing career development centers, access to gender-sensitive and youth-friendly health services, basic functional adult literacy sessions for out of school youth, employability and digital skills trainings, business incubation support for youth entrepreneurs, and the first-ever youth owned and lead Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs), among other things. Kefeta is giving young people the skills, tools, and support to shape a better future for themselves and their country.
Why did you decide to honor Julie Mehretu?
We selected Julie Mehretu based on how, as an artist, she examines how our current lived experiences impact our futures – exactly in alignment with Kefeta. Of course it is also a bonus that she is from Ethiopia.
What is the selection process for the Rees Visionary award?
Named after our late founder, surgeon and artist Dr. Thomas Rees, the Rees Visionary Award is given to artists we feel are creating exceptional work that educates, inspires, and emboldens the viewer through these challenging times. Past honorees have included Wangechi Mutu, El Anatsui, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Zanele Muholi. Every year we are in discussion with curators and stakeholders on who we should honor next.
We’re excited to see the pieces up for auction via Artsy! Can you share a few key pieces?
We can’t wait for it to launch on February 13th! Some highlights of the auction include Adjei Tawiah’s Blue Collar, 2022, Emily Manwaring’s ”Grandma: Who phone is dis?”, 2023, and Justice Mukheli’s Untitled, 2022.
Who is curating the auction?
This years’ curators include Cierra Britton (Cierra Britton Gallery), Natalie Kates (Kates-Ferri Projects), Nadia Nascimento (ARTNOIR), and Fhatuwani Mukheli (I See A Different You, and Artist).
Which contributors are you working with this year?
We have an amazing group of sponsors, partners, and members of the Host Committee. Partners this year include: The Lay Out, ArtNoir, Aurora Davis Projects, General Art Company, and We The Roses.
Cool! Would you like to add anything else?
Please visit amrefusa.org/artball to get your tickets to Amref ArtBall on February 25, 2023. Join us for the event of the year!
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Anna Mikaela Ekstrand is editor-in-chief and founder of Cultbytes. She mediates art through writing, curating, and lecturing. Her latest books are Assuming Asymmetries: Conversations on Curating Public Art Projects of the 1980s and 1990s and Curating Beyond the Mainstream. Send your inquiries, tips, and pitches to firstname.lastname@example.org.