The director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Aisha Kigwalilo. They discussed her background, a new arts project called G.I.R.L. Xhibtion and her thoughts on the arts in Wales.
Hi Aisha great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
Hi, I’m 19 years old and I live in Cardiff, yet I am of African descent. Currently I’m an undergraduate student finishing 1st year study of International Relations and Politics however I have not always been in this field. Throughout high school, college and now I’m involved in music as a vocalist and songwriter.
So what got you interested in creative expression, the arts and social activism?
Creative expression has been something I have always embodied, in my music, dance and musical theatre phase. However, my interests in social activism and supporting human rights and social justice has always been brewing; it was being placed in an environment such as politics that reminded me how important those issues truly are. Considering the fact, leader fellowship programme, TuWezeshe Akina Dada gave me this opportunity I believe that, even though I’m not an artist myself, art is the best language to translate feelings that leave words speechless.
Thanks Aisha, can you tell us more about TuWezeshe Akina Dada and G.I.R.L. Xhibition?
TuWezeshe Akina Dada is a leadership programme built to encourage, mentor, and inspire young women to live to their full potential. Operating since July 2016, TuWezeshe selects young women from England, Wales and Scotland, training us how organise our own projects of activism in both the British and African diaspora.
The projects we decide to create surround the lessons taught in our training, gender-based violence, identity, and empowerment. G.I.R.L. Xhibition lies in empowerment, because it focuses on how society only gives platforms to certain narratives. With the limitations communities face when it comes to representation, numerous narratives can shape an individual yet many of those narratives hardly explored. G.I.R.L. Xhibition aims to present the narratives of the ordinary, through the expression of art. Making the unconventional, the new conventional.
Therefore, with donations from Comic Relief TuWezeshe’s founder FORWARD UK has partnered with Sub-Sahara Advisory Panel Wales thus each fellowship is granted £500 for their project. However, for personal reasons and I believe many could relate to I have registered G.I.R.L. Xhibition to be a fundraiser for Velindre Cancer Centre. It is something that hits home for me and I know it is a narrative many individuals can relate to, thus all profits e.g. ticket sales, drinks will be donated there!
One of the Get the Chance team, Amina Elmi is involved in the exhibition in Cardiff, how did local females get involved in the project and how did you select the work to be exhibited?
Well I selected Amina Elmi to model for G.I.R.L.’s promotion campaign. In the actual exhibition, nine artists from across the UK (Cardiff, Newport, Bath, Bristol, Swindon and Portsmouth). I wanted to select ordinary girls like Amina because I wanted to help expand the platform of the representation of black women, to ordinary girls and those of African and Caribbean descent. Amina’s poster is one of four other posters, each one designed differently and highlighting their character/personality. They aim of my campaign was to highlight the cultural and personal dimensions. I selected each girl based on their individuality and the differences that them similar to me, others, and perhaps yourself!
We asked Amina to give a personal response to her involvement in this new intiative.
How did you come to be involved with this project?
Aisha and I were friends in college. We recently caught up with each other and Aisha told me that she was planning an exhibition. I was really impressed as she was so passionate and excited when explaining the project to me. Later, she then asked me if I wouldn’t mind being in some photos for the promotion of the event.
Can you tell us more about your work featured in this project?
Myself and 3 other amazing young ladies were asked to do a photo shoot. This was for the promotion online and leaflets that Aisha was going to make. In the photo shoot, Aisha made sure we were all comfortable and reminded us that she wanted us to be ourselves. This allowed the photos of us girls to represent a different types of black women.
You have spoken in the past about the lack of representation of Muslim females in the mainstream media. Do you think projects like this go some way to improving the situation?
Definitely. This exhibition is about black women. A group I feel is restricted by stereotypes and ignored by the mainstream media. By showcasing different types of black women this exhibit is defying those assumptions. In my case, Aisha wanted to highlight that the experiences of black hijabi women are also valid.
Aisha, Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision. Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based creatives?
I’m aware of the barriers to equality and diversity in Wales to a great extent, presently I’m noticing a growth in Welsh based creatives showing more presence, especially in Cardiff’s art festivals. When I was searching for the artists I made sure to provide Wales based creatives (Newport and Cardiff) the opportunity to showcase in an art exhibition I believe, has not been displayed in Wales. And I hope after this exhibition, more Wales based creatives will be inspired to develop exhibitions like G.I.R.L.
There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales based creatives, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you? Can more be done?
Well, I am receiving a great deal of support from the National Museum of Wales, which is exciting! But except for that the current support network I am receiving at this moment is from individuals, specifically artists in their own right within the Welsh university community and friends; I believe that is more than ‘healthy’. Yet more can be done, because when looking at the works of all nine artists I realised that in exchange for them volunteering their artworks to such a great cause, the least I can do is provide them the exposure and attract creatives and galleries within the Cardiff area.
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
This is a hard question but honestly, I would direct my funds to art departments in Welsh schools and universities. There is scene there that deserves to be noticed, I believe that many artists get discouraged to continue as it is considered an ‘unrealistic’ career choice especially in African and Asian communities. If art students are given more platforms to showcase and interact with other Wales based creatives/artists that will be worth something!
What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
What excites me about the art in Wales is the subtle growth of creative expansion. I appreciate the Celtic and culturally Welsh inspired to the postmodernist statement exhibitions taking place in Wales! I just hope G.I.R.L. Xhibition can contribute to this growth of expansion and open up another avenue the Welsh creative community can explore.
Thanks for your time, Aisha
Thank you for having me!