On February 25, 2023 at 26 Bridge in Brooklyn, NY, Amref Health Africa will host their annual ArtBall event and adjoining art auction, creating a connection between African culture and philanthropy to celebrate and highlight the talent of the African continent. This year Amref Health Africa will honor world-renowned Ethiopian artist Julie Mehretu with the Rees Visionary Award.

ArtBall features a Contemporary African, Pan-African, and Black art auction, entertainment, food and beverages from award-winning Black-owned vendors, an installation, and an award ceremony, and has grown from just over 300 attendees to nearly 800, with an emphasis on the African diaspora. Notable hosts and guests have included Solange, Swizz Beatz, Alicia Keys, Chris Rock, Antwaun Sargent, Kimberly Drew, Hank Willis Thomas, Isolde Brielmaier, Shantell Martin, Nina Chanel Abney, Jack Shainman, Young Paris, and many more.

The auction will consist of around 30 pieces of Contemporary African, Pan-African and Black Art from emerging and established artists. The ArtBall auction will run via Artsy: Feb 13-27, 2023. The proceeds of the auction will benefit Kefeta. Past auction artists have included Wangechi Mutu, Amoako Boako, Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, Awol Erizku, and more.

Interview with Emily Correale | Director, Development and Communications
Amref Health Africa in the USA

For readers who may not be familiar with Amref, can you tell us about the organization and its mission?

Amref Health Africa (Amref) is the largest Africa-based nonprofit in the world. We run healthcare programs across 35 countries, and last year reached over 20 million people. Our headquarters are in Nairobi, Kenya and 97% of our global staff are African. Our mission is to transform African healthcare from within.

The ArtBall is your premier fundraising event of the year. What does the 2023 edition entail?

We are returning on February 25, 2023 after a couple years off due to COVID-19. We can’t wait to get back on the dancefloor and celebrate all things Amref, Africa, and Black and African art! This year the event will include an interactive installation featuring one of our programs in Ethiopia called Kefeta, which is all about empowering youth and reimaging their futures. It will also include an award ceremony, an art installation with the art that is up for auction, West and East African food, an open bar that includes Ethiopian beer, and a special performance by Chop and Quench aka The Fela! Band… with more to come!

What is the Rees Visionary Award and how was artist Julie Mehretu selected to be honored?

Named after our late founder, surgeon and artist Dr. Tom Rees, the Rees Visionary Award is given to artists we feel are creating exceptional work that educates, inspires, and emboldens the viewer through these challenging times. Past honorees have included Wangechi Mutu, El Anatsui, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Zanele Muholi. We selected Julie Mehretu based on how, as an artist, she examines how our current lived experiences impact our futures – exactly in alignment with Kefeta.

ArtBall includes an auction component to benefit Kefeta, a youth empowerment program in Ethiopia. What types of programs will the fundraiser support?

In partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), we launched Kefeta last year, a project across 18 major cities in Ethiopia that aims to empower Ethiopian youths to advance their economic, civic, and social opportunities. Kefeta, which means “to elevate” in Ethiopia’s Amharic language, is creating a nationwide network of services to reach two million young people aged 15-29 by 2026. Services include establishing and remodeling youth hubs, establishing career development centers, access to gender-sensitive and youth-friendly health services, basic functional adult literacy sessions for out of school youth, employability and digital skills trainings, business incubation support for youth entrepreneurs, and the first-ever youth owned and lead Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs), among other things. Kefeta is giving young people the skills, tools, and support to shape a better future for themselves and their country.

Who curated this year's auction artworks? Which artists are featured and can you share some of the highlights?

Alongside the ArtBall event runs our art auction, featuring contemporary Af­rican, Pan-African, and Black art. Art will be on display in-person and avail­able through Artsy, February 13-27th. This years’ curators include Cierra Britton (Cierra Britton Gallery), Natalie Kates (Kates-Ferri Projects), Alexandra Giniger (Studio Director, Nina Chanel Abney), Melle Hock (ARTNOIR), and Fhatuwani Mukheli (I See A Different You, and Artist). So far, we are keeping the 2023 artists under wraps, but past artists have included: Malick Sidibe, Lina Iris Viktor, Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, and Amoako Boafo, among so many others.

How can people donate, support, or participate by bidding on the available artworks?  

You can visit amrefusa.org/ArtBall to learn more about the event and our work. The auction will launch on artsy.net on February 13th. We aim to make the auction accessible to a variety of price points, and it’s a great way to support our work while also starting or expanding your art collection!


Alicia Puig has been a contributing writer for Create! Magazine since 2017.