The Nairobi, Kenya-based healthcare NGO Amref Health Africa supports millions of individuals across 35 countries in sub-Saharan Africa each year—making it the largest health organization on the African continent. For the first time since 2019, the impactful non-profit hosted its ArtBall gala in NYC this past weekend, one of only a few marquee fundraisers it does in the US. This year’s vibrant celebration, held within Brooklyn’s 26 Bridge, honored acclaimed Ethiopian American contemporary artist Julie Mehretu with the Rees Visionary Award, named for Amref’s founder Tom Rees, who was both a surgeon and an artist.
More than a celebratory in-person occasion, the charitable event continues online through Amref’s ArtBall Benefit Auction, featuring works by African, Pan-African and Black artists. Curated by Natalie Kates of Kates-Ferri Projects, Cierra Britton of Cierra Britton Gallery, Nadia Nascimento of We The Rose and ARTNOIR and the artist Fhatuwani Mukheli, the auction is hosted on Artsy and includes compelling paintings, photographs, sculpture and collage by renowned artists like Tariku Shiferaw, Bre Andy, Dana Robinson and Dapper Lou. They can be bid on until 12PM EST today, 27 February. All funds raised directly benefit Amref’s Kefeta project, which aims to empower more than two million Ethiopian youth over the next five years.
“I am super-humbled by the work that Amref does,” Mehretu said to guests at the event. “After these last few years, we know more than ever, including those of us who aren’t usually on the frontline of healthcare, the imperative of healthcare and healthcare equity. We understand, in terms of maternal and childcare, in terms of access to clean water, in terms of training further health practitioners, that this is a civil right. This is a human right. This is a right for every single human who comes to be born on this planet—to live with dignity and respect.” Mehretu added that through the work of our collective radical imaginations “we can invent other possibilities and other ways of thinking, other futures. Amref built this possibility, where this cultural work is being made by Africans for Africans.”
Hero image of “Grandma: Who phone is dis?” (2023), courtesy of Emily Manwaring