Street art puts focus on black women
LONDON – In a bright yellow cloth shirt, arms outstretched and adorned with bangles, the image of Shaney Blackman towering over six metres tall on a wall in east London is arresting.
Blackman’s portrait is the last in a series of 10 murals blazoned across the city highlighting the lives of strong, black women by artist Neequaye Dreph Dsane, known as Dreph.
Dreph says the portraits, far from capturing celebrity or famous faces, seek to celebrate everyday women, such as Blackman, a legal professional who quit her high-powered job to volunteer and travel the world.
“I didn’t ever think I’d be a piece of street art,” Blackman says. “I definitely think that there’s a low representation of black women but we are here, we exist.”
Dreph says the project is about “celebrating people I felt needed celebrating, ordinary people who do extraordinary things” with the women ranging from health consultants to care professionals to marketing executives.
For Dreph, the series titled You Are Enough, comes at a time of greater focus on how the gender pay gap is impacting black women and the Black Lives Matter campaign in the United States following the election of President Donald Trump.
The British-Ghanian artist, 43, who studied fine art and has worked in schools, says it was important his work was public.
For Pauline Nottingham, a 24-year-old receptionist who works opposite the artwork, the painting makes her optimistic. “I think it’s really beautiful.”
Some of the women featured are adjusting to new found fame having been recognized by tourists and locals in the area.