“Bringing people together, inspiring, soothing and sharing: these are the powers of art, the importance of which has been made emphatically obvious during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. With hundreds of thousands of people directly affected by the virus and billions more either in lockdown or battling the pandemic on the front lines, this World Art Day is a timely reminder that art has the power to unite and connect in times of crisis.” ~ Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO
World Art Day is celebrated on 15 April in honour of the artist Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday. He is seen as a symbol of peace, freedom of expression and brotherhood. The day was declared by the International Association of Art (IAA), a partner of Unesco, to promote awareness about fine arts worldwide and was first celebrated in 2012.
World Art Day is a celebration to promote the development, diffusion and enjoyment of art. Some of the most popular types of art include painting, sculpting, drawing, photography and calligraphy. Other art forms also include architecture, fashion design, wood crafts and jewellery design. Along with visual arts, there are also performing arts, which include dance, theatre and music. On this day we celebrate it all, helping reinforce the links between artistic creations and society to encourage awareness of the diversity of artistic expressions and highlight the contribution of artists to sustainable development. As long as humans have been able to use their hands, they have created art to represent themselves. From cave paintings to ceilings of chapels, artistic expressions can tell us a lot about the lives of the people who created them.
Between 70 – 80% of photography students around the world are women, yet they account for only about 15% of professional photographers. Women have been underrepresented and overlooked throughout the history of photography, but recently there has been a greater acknowledgement of their contributions to photography. Here are a few South African female photographers from a few years back:
Constance Stuart Larrabee
Constance Stuart Larrabee was born in England in 1914 and came to South Africa with her parents when she was three months old. Her interest in photography began in 1924 when she got a Kodak Box Brownie for her birthday. She graduated from Pretoria High School in 1933 where she was one of the first South African women to study photography abroad. When she returned in 1936 she opened her own studio, the Constance Stuart Portrait Studio in Pretoria. Here she photographed leading statesmen, generals, artists, writers, society and theatrical personalities of the time. In 1953 she became an American citizen and had a photographic exhibition called Tribal Women of South Africa, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
In 1985 three of her images from World War II were included in The Indelible Image: Photographs of War 1846 to the Present at the Grey Art Gallery, New York University, New York; the Rice Museum in Houston, Texas; and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. In 1986 she was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Arts at the Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. Two years later she had another solo exhibition called African Profile at the Bayly Art Museum of the University of Virginia.