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Image courtesy of the artist.

'Aba Women Riot' by Fred Martins

In 'Aba Women Riot' Nigerian Artist, Fred Martins, Reinterprets a Groundbreaking Moment In African History

In a new series of prints, the artist celebrates 'the women who lend their voices and stood strong against the oppression of Africans.'

March marks Women's History Month, and for African women, one event that epitomizes the will and tenacity within our community is the Aba Women's Riot, also known as The Women's War of 1929, in which thousands of predominantly Igbo women in eastern Nigeria mobilized to challenge British colonial rule and the barriers placed on women's civic life.

This paradigm-shifting moment in history is the center of the latest series from Nigerian visual artist Fred Martins, who began conceptualizing "Aba Women Riot" in 2019, while reflecting on the invaluable contributions women have made throughout history. "I reflected on the power of femininity and how it has affected history on every stage and era of human civilization," said the artist in a statement.


He expanded on the connection between the historic demonstration and the movements towards liberation that came after, in which notable men are often revered. "The Aba Women's Riots was the game changer that woke [up] Africa and reverberated the continent's voice of freedom. The women's resistance inspired founding fathers of many African nations to seek independence," he adds. "It was the wake of feminism in 1900s Africa."

Fred MartinsImage courtesy of the artist.

The artist released the series during Black History Month to "celebrate the women who lend their voices and stood strong against the oppression of Africans." It consists of several fluid illustrations that "imaginatively reinterpret faces of women on palm fronds as shadows against a dusty earth background," says Martins. "The young palm fronds in Igbo culture are an important 'sacred' tool, symbolic for 'protest.' The women parceled the young fronds to other women in neighboring regions as a message to their allies," he adds.

Martins has often created striking, highly imaginative works that magnify revolutionary Africans. His acclaimed 2016 series "Orange, Black and Freedom," paid homage to the likes of Miriam Makeba, Marcus Garvey, Angela Davis, Thomas Sankara, Patrice Lumumba and more, through intricate portraits that placed their image within a symbolic afro comb. Other series from the artist include the "Black and Freedom" collection, in which he used butterflies and Black Power fists to represent the past and future of the continent.

With "Aba Women Riot' Martins acknowledges a piece of African history that deserves to be widely commemorated. As we celebrate the accomplishments of women throughout the month, the stunning series is a fitting place to start. See it below and keep up with the artist's work via his Instagram page.

'Aba Women Riot' by Fred Martins

Image courtesy of the artist.

'Aba Women Riot' by Fred Martins

Image courtesy of the artist.

'Aba Women Riot' by Fred Martins

Image courtesy of the artist.

'Aba Women Riot' by Fred Martins

Image courtesy of the artist.

'Aba Women Riot' by Fred Martins

Image courtesy of the artist.

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Photo: Alvin Ukpeh.

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