Art is a powerful expressive tool which, in the hands of enlightened people, can serve as a foundation for resolving many of the ills that plague the world. Contemporary artists have seized on this opportunity to use contemporary art as a powerful megaphone for expressing their perceptions of society, and the daily hardships that impact on social well-being. The “Reframing Neglect” exhibition is a presentation along these lines, designed to bring to everyone’s attention the urgent need to put an end to Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) worldwide.
The END Fund mobilizes resources to treat NTDs and focuses on providing treatment to those affected by developing and engaging a community of activist-philanthropists, directing high-impact strategic investments and working in partnership with NGOs, academic partners, governments and pharmaceutical companies. With a view to celebrating the ten-year impact of the END Fund’s activities and raising public awareness of the problems represented by NTDs, artist-activist Aïda Muluneh was asked to design a series of works in collaboration with other artist-photographers from the six African countries (Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan) affected by NTDs.
This photographic exhibition announced by the END Fund will feature 38 photographs by leading photographers from seven African countries. The artists participating in “Reframing Neglect” are Sarah Wasiwa (b. Uganda, 1980), Messeret Argaw (b. Ethiopia, 1989), John Kalapo (b. Mali, 1983), Ala Kheir (b. Sudan, 1985), Omoregie Osakpolor (b. Nigeria, 1990) and Mustafa Saeed (b. Somalia, 1986). Through their art and documentary photography, these artists highlight the burden of neglected tropical diseases on individuals and the community as a whole. Art is used here as a communicative tool to share human emotions and raise public awareness of these recurring ailments.
Aïda Muluneh is a talented contemporary artist, photographer and activist who uses art as a tool to unveil the invisible, to question the public and to bring them to the depths of shared human emotions. In each of these images, she integrates multiple narrative layers to create a powerful interpretation of the impacts of NTDs on access to resources, gender equality, mobility and mental health. In “The Crimson Echo“, a work from her latest collection on show, the photographic artist uses insect motifs “The Barriers Within” and abstract body parts “I Sail on The Memories of My Dreams“, which pay singular attention to the disease vectors and physical symptoms of NTDs. Aïda Muluneh expresses herself through vivid colors and respect for tradition as a driving force to dismantle representations of an extinct and impoverished Africa.
Sarah Waiswa is a documentary photographer born in Uganda and based in Kenya. In her photographic art, she explores new African identities on the continent and takes a contemporary approach to Africa’s social problems. In “Reframing Neglect“, the Ugandan artist accompanies Eunice Atieno, a 48-year-old single mother who has been living with lymphatic filariasis (LF) for 11 years. A condition caused by parasitic worms that is the world’s leading cause of permanent disability. In 2019, the single mother was diagnosed with lymphatic filariasis following a mass drug administration exercise that took place in her neighborhood.
Ethiopian photographer Meseret Argaw unveils strongly expressive, striking and intimate photographs. Her work explores notions of identity, dreams and history. Meseret Argaw’s participation in this awareness-raising exhibition aims to explore the social, economic and mental impact of NTDs on women living in rural Ethiopian communities. These photographs do not necessarily identify with a NTDs, but rather communicate the feelings these women face in society.
John Kalapo is a Malian photographer who tackles everyday social problems through photojournalism and storytelling. In “Reframing Neglect“, he documents NTDs sufferers in the Kita region. In formal portraits, he manages to preserve the dignity of the people photographed while showing the physical impact of the disease.
In a subtle approach, Ala Kheir uses these images to present the city of Khartoum in all its complexity, as well as its social and economic problems. In his series of works, the Sudanese photographer superimposes images of people and places to highlight the precariousness of neighborhoods on the outskirts of Khartoum, and the state of the families who live there. These places, described as dumping grounds or industrial zones, are home to families who have deserted unstable regions and are now living in poverty, prey to NTDs.
From a cultural and social justice perspective, Omoregie Osakpolor hopes to bring about societal change and engage communities in cultural interaction, using art as a weapon. A Nigerian photographic artist and documentary filmmaker, in this series he documents the activities of END Fund’s partner, the Amen Foundation, tackling NTDsn Gombe, Nigeria. Nigeria has a high rate of NTDs infections. Omoregie Osakpolor’s work shows the growing impact of these diseases in her community, as well as the treatments used by local health professionals to tackle them.
Mustafa Saeed‘s work focuses on socio-political issues such as war, conflict and the environment. He uses a variety of media, including photography, graphics and sound, to communicate his vision. In “Reframing Neglect”, the Somali visual artist sets out to dissect the emotional turmoil caused by intestinal worms in sufferers. Using rope and colorful clothing, Mustafa Saeed conveys the neglect and sense of imprisonment of being attached to a disease that can easily be treated.
The series of photographic works will be presented in collaboration with The Africa Center, Harlem, from August 3 to September 5, before being exhibited from September 26 to October 8, 2023 at Cromwell Place London. Through “Reframing Neglect“, the artists create a powerful narrative and highlight the urgent need for collective action to confront these Neglected Tropical Diseases and remove the impact they have on black African communities.