THE WORD Art should lead the attack on the gender wall

The British Punjabi artist Chila Kumari Burman (main image), who explores Asian femininity in paintings and installations, photography and printmaking, and film, sees art as central to breaking the gender gap and widening the cultural gaze

Artistic practice is a force for cultural reflection. With the recent revelation of the gender pay gap results, exposing British businesses for inequalities within the workplace, the question of female empowerment and equality is significant. These are problems that have been present for too long and we need to address them across all industries.

Art can, and should, be the leader.

The Stellar International Art Foundation, founded by the Choudhrie family in 2008, brings to light the inequalities embedded within the art world, celebrating diversity and equality as a movement for social and cultural change. The events they organise provide the platform for necessary conversations on equality and diversity, and the work that founder Anita Choudhrie and the Stellar Arts Foundation does, is exemplary in not only the art world, but the world in general

Anita Choudhrie

I am honoured to have been invited to speak at their event tomorrow (April 18), to share my inspirations and visions for fostering social and political change.

As an Indian woman, having grown up in Liverpool, I was exposed to a spectrum of different cultures that not only made me who I am but have manifested themselves within my work. I have always believed in exposing cultural and social diversities through art, raising political and social issues and provoking questions. The explosion of colour that characterises my artwork has always been present within my life, and from the colourful walls of the house I grew up in to the memory of my father’s ice cream van I grew up immersed in colour. It plays a huge part in my work and it’s narrative.

Equality, in terms of gender, race and culture, is something else that has always been at the forefront of my artistic work. Diversity in creativity presents opportunities and innovations that would not appear without the full spectrum of talent.

Growing up, Growing up, I didn’t experience vast amounts of racial inequality, but I do feel it is important that we support ther work of artists from the diaspora.

This is a theme that I feature strongly in my work and is a topic that needs to be addressed. The world is on a path to change, tackling inequality with movements such as #BlackLivesMatter and embracing this fight is the only way that we can truly make social and political change for good.

The arts should take a lead in championing diversity and equality, whether it be a question of race, gender or ethnicity; which is exactly why foundations like Stellar need to be supported and encouraged. Artistic expression has the potential to drive change, challenge, educate and prompt social reflection, and must not be underestimated.

78% of galleries represent more men than women despite 51% of visual artists being female

According to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, 78% of galleries represent more men than women despite 51% of visual artists being female. This statistic highlights the issue of gender equality in the arts and consolidates why we need to advance feminism within the art world and widen the cultural gaze. In the knowledge of the gender pay gap results and the #MeToo campaign, championing diversity within the arts will help to bring us a step closer to embracing diversity across the board.

I would describe myself as an artist and an activist. Within the current political landscape, women must realise their potential and their identities within their work and further beyond. We’ve seen the recent revelations of the #MeToo campaign, bringing to light feminist issues that have been underlying for far too long and now we must unite and break down these barriers of inequality in every aspect of life.

Equality is an important and relevant topic that is beginning to get recognition and gain momentum in all walks of life. Specifically, within art, now is our time to progress, develop and realise our true potential.

Chila Kumari Burman’s work is currently in the Tate, the Wellcome Collection, the British Council collection, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Devi Foundation collection and Richard Branson collection. She has recently been awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of arts London. 



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