Women Painting The Art World, Brighter – Enam Gbewonyo

Enam Gbewonyo is a multimedia textile artist, who set up the Black British Female Artist (BBFA) Collective. The organisation was set up with a mission to change the landscape of the art world, making it a level playing field and bringing voice to a marginalised group who have a lot to say in Enam’s own words.

What does the BBFA actually do? 

The Black British Female Artist (BBFA) Collective is an initiative I founded primarily to create a platform for black British female artists to build sustainable careers. In addition, our work seeks to address the invisibility of UK’s black female artists by tackling issues of gender equity, racial identity and political discourse. Currently consisting of 5 members who specialise in a myriad of disciplines, it is our hope to build the initiative into an incubator programme providing support to black female artists at all stages of their careers.

So, what you have managed to achieve so far with the collective?

Since we started in 2015, we have been forging forward on achieving some key goals such as becoming an influential link between artists, the BAME community and art institutions, creating events that help break the barriers to inclusion in the arts. Further, investing in the cross-cultural development of artists through exchange programs with artists in Africa and its diaspora. To date, we have delivered exhibitions in partnership with the likes of the African and African Caribbean Design Diaspora Festival and TEDxEuston. We have also held a number of talks, the most recent at the Caribbean In/Securities Creativity and Negotiation in the Caribbean conference. Last year we fulfilled our first Arts Council England funded cross-cultural exchange in Ghana. This sought to initiate much-needed conversations with our Ghanaian counterparts about the challenges they face as female artists and facilitate collaborative working, culminating in an immersive exhibition, which showed as part of Chale Wote Street Art Festival.

What difficulties do you think women are facing in the art world at the moment? 

Speaking from the perspective of the arts and as a black female artist, the issues we face are many and extremely complex. However, as a Collective we seek to address some key challenges such as the fact that we are a demographic that has been largely overlooked and our works on average sell for less than our black male counterparts and much less than our white counterparts. With Lubiana Himid winning the Turner Prize – a long overdue and therefore monumental event – we hope the tide is turning but are realistic in the fact that it’s a small win in a very mighty ocean.

Read more in ‘Woman I Feel You, I See You’ March 2018 issue