Friday, December 9, 2011

EMPOWERING WOMEN THROUGH ART. Shiri Achu Exhibits at The Commonwealth Secretariat, Marlborough house, during Human Rights week.

(The Following article has been extracted from the Commonwealth Secretariat Webpage, Link: )

Empowering women through art
8 December 2011

Commonwealth art works on display during Human Rights week

An exhibition on empowering women through art was held at the Commonwealth Secretariat’s headquarters in London, as part of a series of activities to mark Human Rights Day on 6 December 2011.

The art works by New Zealand's Rosanna Raymond and Cameroonian Shiri Achu show how art can be used to empower and encourage women to stand up for their rights.
The theme of the exhibition is ‘Artist or Activist? Exploring and Empowering Women through Art’.

Ms Raymond, who is of Samoan descent, said her art work draws inspiration and imagination from folklore and legends narrated to her by her grandmother.
Through her art she encourages women to reconnect with their roots and deconstruct the cliché of the island girl. She also uses her art to get young women to think about the sacredness of womanhood and to challenge them to stay away from abusive relationships.

Ms Achu’s paintings, using acrylics on hardboard, depict African women in everyday scenes in their various roles as wife, mother, provider and women-in-the-making.
She said: “I want to portray women as confident and make them have a sense of dignity and pride in themselves and feel comfortable in their own skin.”

The theme of the week’s activities at the Secretariat is ‘Women Human Rights Defenders: Agents of Change within Commonwealth Communities’.

The 2011 Commonwealth Day theme ‘Women as Agents of Change’ celebrates women whose work has made a positive difference to the lives of others, and emphasises the Commonwealth message that by investing in women and girls we can accelerate social, economic and political progress in our member states.

Karen McKenzie, Acting Head of the Secretariat's Human Rights Unit, said the week of events are aimed at promoting human rights mainstreaming and awareness so that all development programmes and policies further the realisation of human rights - in line with the Commonwealth Secretariat’s strategic plan.

The week started with a testimony on the life of Ugandan human rights defender Marjorie Nshmere Ojule, who fled her homeland and sought asylum in the United Kingdom as a result of her activism work.

On Wednesday, 7 December, a documentary film on the plight of women who have been branded witches in Ghana - ‘Witches of Gambaga’ by Yaba Badoe - was screened.

On Thursday evening, 8 December, the Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, will deliver an opening address at an event aimed at celebrating the 63rd birthday of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the brave women across the Commonwealth who fight for positive change on a daily basis. The week culminates on 9 December with a roundtable discussion on the issue of forced marriage.

My display and a few pics from the day can be seen below...

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Time for Presidential term limit for African leaders -
‘Big Society Initiative for Africa’ launch.

Pauline Latham OBE MP was delighted to launch the “Big Society Initiative for Africa” in the Houses of Parliament on Monday 7th November in association with Emmanuel Neba Fuh, the Campaign Co-coordinator at British Aid for Africa Consortium.

The official launch took place at the CPA room (Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Room, Westminster, Houses of Parliament, London) The landmark event provided an opportunity for Britain to stand alongside Africans in holding the African Union to account and prevent African leaders from continuing to perpetuate themselves in office for a lifetime.

Edwin Achu (BAAC member) welcomed the guests and was general MC for the evening. Speakers introduced where MP Pauline Latham. Mr Shaun Bailey (Big Society Ambassador), Hon Agyenim-Boeteng MP (African Parliamentarians for Accountable Governance) and Emmanuel Neba-Fuh (SMK Award Winner)

Emmanuel Neba Fuh has said: “Without good governance, and unless we beat corruption, we will never defeat poverty in Africa” He adds “The lack of concrete steps to put the African Union Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance mechanism into effect is undermining the UN Millennium Development Goals and making elections a growing source of conflict in Africa

Emmanuel believes that the African Union must introduce a clause in the African Union Charter on Democracy in relations to Elections and Governance in order to prevent African leaders from staying in power for more than 10 years.

Pauline Latham OBE MP said:“The problems of Africa are well documented and have been greatly publicised for years. The issues that Africa face are issues that the British people take a great interest in – be it the civil wars in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo or Angola, or the refusal of leaders to respect the will of the people through the ballot box as we saw in Kenya, Zimbabwe, and most recently Ivory Coast and North Africa”

The British Government has asked that every British Citizen get involved with their local community, engage in voluntary work, help provide services to those less fortunate and stand together to do what is right.

The British Aid for Africa Consortium acknowledges that post election violence has destroyed the lives of millions of Africans and remains one of the root causes of extreme poverty, hunger and disease in Africa. This violence is attributed to bad governance. It prevents African nations from achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Without good governance, and unless corruption is beaten, poverty will never be defeated in Africa.

The aim of the event was to bring together the UK African Diaspora, UK policy and decision-makers, and to galvanize public support for the introduction of a clause in the African Union Charter on democracy, elections and governance – that will prevent African leaders from staying in power for more than two terms (10 years).

It is believed that this innovative approach will prevent African leaders from perpetuating themselves in power for a life time, uphold the integrity of elections in Africa, and lead to a more secure, prosperous and stable Africa.

British Aid for Africa Consortium is a registered charity which tackles the root causes (and not the symptoms) of extreme poverty, hunger and disease in Africa and exists to enhance the contribution of the UK African Diaspora to Africa’s development. For further information about British Aid for Africa Consortium and the Big Society Initiative for Africa, please visit

Live music by Tafirenyika Mushuku and An Art Exhibition by Shiri Achu provided light entertainment and related distractions from the full bodied speeches.

I was invited to this high profile Launch to exhibit pieces to represent beautiful Africa! To play my little part in this campaign I decided to donate 20% of all sales made on the day to BAAC.

Some of the pieces I exhibited included ‘One African night’, ‘Ma Africa Pounds’, ‘The Climb series’, 'Maasai soul' and 'Midnight tradition'. Because of the set up of the room I was able to exhibit framed SHIRIACHUART signed limited prints as opposed to the originals as many of my original pieces are very large.

I was humbled when Lady Marie picked up the piece she was interested in buying ‘The climb series’ and said it was worth more and then wrote a cheque for a larger amount. Further purchases from an MP and a Lord...

I am always humbled and excited when people buy my art, notably my African inspired art. I am particularly touched when they buy not simply because it is an attractive image (they like the colours etc) but also because they are taken by the culture and the message and they want to be reminded of it through my art.

Being originally from Cameroon and knowing our political system there, with President Paul Biya in power for as long as I can remember, the campaign is one I feel passionately about.
So; at the end of the evening, I was very happy to place my donattion in an envelope to hand over to this great cause.

Over to you! Do you believe in this campaign? What are your views and comments? If you do believe in BAAC, please do what ever you can do to play your part. Do visit the website; and/or Contact the members of BAAC etc

Our small steps today can only make for a stronger Africa tomorrow.

Wishing you all a great week ahead.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Lordship Flower


I have wanted to start this blog for some time now! Since my first solo exhibition; The 30th Act which was held in April 2009 at St Augustine's Tower in Hackney, London. Then I had wanted to blog about all my amazing experiences in Cameroon, whilst I was there last year and earlier this year. My exhibition at Centre Culturel Francais in Douala entitled; La rue, and updated readers of the radio and TV interviews I had, and newspaper articles... etc

Then my more recent exhibition this year in April at the Tabernacle in Notting hill, London which was entitled 'Happy Concoction' which saw Rudolph Walker and Richard Blackwood making an appearance at the exhibition and Richard Blackwood leaving with a signed limited print of ‘Her Stance’.

Also could have started the blog when The Grammy Award Multi talented Singer; Faith Evans added one of my prints 'Maasai tone' to her art collection just this September in Washington DC.

There have been numerous occasions I keep wishing I could start my blog and really how I wish I had been blogging in the last two years. A lot has happened. And honestly I don’t think I will really ever have the time to revisit my memories to write down those experiences to you all, I mean, between working and travelling between London, Cameroon, Washington DC, there are a breath of stories and inspirations I would have loved to share then, but it really is never too late to start so I aim to do so from now on and hope I continue to have a lot to share!

So, this is to share with you all the latest on SHIRIACHUART.

I received an email from an ex-colleague who was trying to find out whether I would be interested in painting on a wall in his house. Me? Interested in painting on a bare wall? Yeeeeaaah!! Bring it on!! I love doing new things, particularly new, interesting and challenging things. So, of course - yeah I am interested!

In all eagerness on both our parts, we meet on site just a few days later. Let me tell you that this house is thee quirkiest house in North London - really! Honestly! The owner is an architect, and is from Belgium and has a great sense of style and taste. So, I see the wall I will be faced with, we talk keenly about the brief - A flower. Then we discuss site logistics and how I would be able to physically do the work as the wall space is above the stair at the entrance of the house. It was confirmed that he would have to build a platform over the void and I would use additional stools/chairs if required to get to the corners of the 2.3mX2.3m wall area.

Six days later, nervous and excited, I get to the house early on Saturday morning to start the painting. So why am I nervous? Well, I am an artist, and that's what artists do right? Paint?! Yes, and I have done many paintings before right?! Right! – But, they have all been on canvas, or board or canvas board. This was the first time I was to do a painting on the wall. To be there permanently!!! – Oh, and I have two days to get it done! There are a thousand what ifs?! Yup! I was allowed to be nervous. Nerves aside, and this was a primary concern, I was just praying that this permanent fixture of a flower, now coined ‘The Lordship flower’ (because of its location in North London) in this quirky home will be loved by all those who live in the house and also by those who visit. It will be the first thing one would see when they arrive in the flat; (after climbing up the stairs immediately from the entrance door). The Lordship Flower will be seen from the landing or from the dining/kitchen area.

Pre 'The Lordship flower', the wall as seen from the landing (below).

I get straight to work! Honestly, two days to get it all done is serious! First, some loud music Marvin Gaye, The Beatles, Louis Armstrong remixes... then some great tea made by the lovely lady of the house and I was left to it.

On the platform I still needed an additional stool to get to the areas I needed to get to, to sketch out the flower. Oops! The sketched flower is a little high - occupants in the house would see the flower from various angles and particularly the kitchen/dining/ living space. So I investigated from there and indeed it is, so, I erased and started again! It really ought to be right!

OK, I am happy with the level... let’s get the paints out! Wall paints. Another first for me... so exciting! I prepare my palettes of reds, yellows, some blue, black and white and get mixing and I am ready to paint. The greens will come tomorrow. My client is keen for me to amply apply the paint, so I do, which also adds texture to the flower.

Some small progress made, the image below left shoes the view from the kitchen and dining area I spoke about earlier. I am conscious of the fact that the wall is constantly washed by natural light from the two windows - so I make my colours extra bold, so that under the light, the flower would still stand proud and not be washed out by the bright southern light.

The following shows the blossoming of the flower until its completion... I worked throughout both Saturday and Sunday, stopping only to eat or change the CD on the CD player when the live classical violinist took breaks from his rehearsals.

The Lordship flower is approximately 2mX2m wide and stretches across one entire wall above the staircase.

For scale purposes, the bud is as big as a human head if not slightly bigger. Also, stretch out your arms as if going in for the biggest welcome hug. The Lordship flower is bigger than that hug!
The lordship flower is a huge statement. First, it speaks a huge welcome. Then it adds warmth, boldness and colour and brings all three into the home. The client had a great concept in this one single flower.

I am pleased that the occupants of the house love their new flower. Gareth S; an occupant in the house tells me '... It was amazing to see it grow. It has changed our lives'.

I am very pleased, infact, thrilled, that it was exactly what the client wanted! Thank God for that. I Thank God for the beautiful flowers He created that I have simply tried to recreate in my own way in this case, in one gigantic flower; The Lordship Flower.

Thanks for reading and please talk to me. Ask me questions, advise me, encourage me, critic me, tutor me, ideas for blog articles, etc

All the best,