Art is an essential part of our society and is featured in everything we perceive. Art has the power to tell impactful stories; represent the unrepresented; change the way people think; evoke human emotion and so much more. And with the power of social media, art has become more accessible to the masses. Previously, you would have had to visit an art gallery or museum to view pieces, now artists can reach people directly on their mobile phones. This has opened up new gateways to connect to a new and broader audience.

The power to be provocative and inspire others using art has been taken to new levels. I believe that art is one of the determining causes why there is an urge to gain an understanding of self.  especially when it comes to identity issues that have plagued the African, American, and Caribbean communities worldwide.

I had the opportunity to chop it up with a beautiful spirit; she uses her gifts to paint what’s appealing to her. Her mission is to create art to help other people see the beauty within themselves.

British based artist Abena Addison embarked on her art journey 3 years ago. The teaching assistant was unaware that she had this talent, “ 3 years ago, I was sitting in class with my pupils who were painting portraits of each other. I decided to join in, and I painted one of the kids.” When her class and colleagues saw Abena’s painting, they were instantly captivated and shocked to see how beautiful it looked. Inspired by their reaction, Abena bought some paints and a canvas on that very day. “When I got back home, I told my Dad, I think I have found my gift.”

Abena has a degree in Human Resources which is entirely different from what she is doing now. “I remember my mum telling me – pick a course that will be beneficial for your future {laughs}  to date I’ve never had a job in HR.” To Abena’s surprise, when she showed her paintings to her mother, her mum instantly became one of her biggest fans. “She supports my art and is so proud of me, she constantly tells her friends I’m an artist.” Abena’s father is another huge supporter of her, “When he saw the first painting that I did in class, he said to me – Abena, your talent really means something.”

Abena is currently striving to be a full-time artist. At present, she is committed to her pupils and loves them dearly. One of the joys of her job is the early starts and early finishes. “My teaching job permits me enough time to work on art without feeling drained.” The balance between following your passion as well as working for a living can be quite stressful. Living an unbalanced life is one of the reasons why many people abandon the pursuit of their goals. Abena is thankful for her position, but her aspirations continue to grow, as she knows this is just the beginning.

“I have been asked several times what artists inspire me, but I’ve chosen not to look at other people’s work because I do not want to subconsciously be influenced by their style.” Abena’s perspective on her influences as an artist is somewhat unconventional but real. She is not inspired by other artists; this is not down to her pride but a method to keep her style of work authentic. She wants to forge her own path and do things her way; to produce art for people to feel good from within.

“Unapologetically herself”

In a world that places a high value on the beauty of women, Abena seeks to take control of that narrative and shift the ownership onto women. In her new art series Unapologetically herself, Abena uses her divine talents to explore the diversity amongst women; acknowledging each curve, mark and shade. To her, beauty is more than skin deep, and this art exhibition is reaffirming the importance of self-love.

“I want to showcase that people are perfect how they are, their skin tone, body shape, marks and scars are all part of their uniqueness. Presently, I feel that it is a trend to be woke and show love to dark skin women – some people think the trend is a bad thing. However, I think it’s good because it has put constraints on people’s negative rhetoric that are harmful to black women. If you are one, who harbours these negative views, you now know if you say something disrespectful you will face repercussions.”

Abena’s goal with this exhibition is to reach a large and diverse audience and especially the people she represents in her imagery.

“I paint what I think is beautiful, and I think Black is Beautiful.”

My Black is beautifil

Unapologetically Herself exhibition is showcasing on Sunday 1st July 2018 from 2 pm – 4.30 pm at Stour Space in Hackney Wick.

Tickets start from £4 and are available here –

Subject – @art_by_abena

Writer & Photographer – @Kofi Dwaah