March 22, 2022 is World Water Day. It’s an annual day of awareness used to teach the public about the importance of accessible clean water in all communities. Lack of access to clean water and proper sanitation is one of the most common public health challenges in many communities across Africa. This has become more prevalent in the wake of climate change, which is disproportionately affecting middle-to-low income countries.
This World Water Day, Amref Health Africa is raising awareness and funds for their water and sanitation programs, while also celebrating the work of contemporary Black artists. Amref Health Africa invited Black visual artists from around the world to sell their artworks during World Water Day. All proceeds from the sold pieces will be put into a fund to help Amref Health Africa’s clean water initiatives.
The organization is the largest Africa-based healthcare nonprofit, serving millions of people every year across 35 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Their priorities include strengthening health systems and training African health workers to respond to the continent’s most critical health challenges. Their approach is community-based and they treat the people they reach as partners, rather than just beneficiaries. Over 97% of their global staff are Africans, so that they are always tackling challenges with community-centric expertise.
BLAC spoke with Shantell Martin, one of Amref Health Africa’s collaborating artists, about the significance of World Water Day and the power that comes from creating art in support of a just cause. She is a visual artist, philosopher, choreographer and teacher. She has taught at MIT Media Lab, NYU Tisch ITP, and Columbia University, to name a few. Shantell partnered with Amref to sell 150, limited-edition pieces for the World Water Day initiative.
Shantell explained her experience collaborating with Amref Health Africa.
“Working alongside Amref Health Africa on this project has been really special and a wonderful way to begin the year. I’m so honored that my art can be used to empower communities and strengthen health systems, especially for the support of women and children across the Globe and in Africa,” she said.
Her featured work includes four designs that transformed a 44-ounce, white porcelain pitcher into a stunning modern piece of art. Shantell She hopes that it will inspire other Black artists and especially Black women to pursue their creative passions.
She said, “Being able to be an example to younger artists who can now see a future for themselves in the arts is really important to me. Amplification is a natural byproduct of collaboration, and working together to create opportunities for our perspectives and work to be shared.”