Meet Amsa Yaro who partnered with CBC London to create a special piece of art
The London-based artist shines the light on unsung community heroes
Several months ago, CBC London asked Amsa Yaro what community, duty and family looked like to her. The mixed media artist got to work and came with a piece she calls "Sunday Best."
Yaro, whose work often features recycled materials, moved to London, Ont. from Nigeria in 2015. We asked her to explain the significance — and sacrifice — behind "Sunday Best."
When you think of the word 'community', what comes to mind?
I think about what context I would like to explore to get the right picture or the right idea. Is it about the buildings or infrastructure within a geographical location? Is it the natural environment and/or the people themselves that live there?
In many cases, what makes a community is usually not what's in front of our faces. It's the mechanisms behind the scene, behind the veil, that keep pushing things forward. It's those important figures who play a silent role who end up being the glue that keeps the train rolling.
So, community embodied. Who are you thinking of?
Growing up, I was surrounded by a number of those figures who held such roles. They were usually a younger sibling or relative of either parent, single sisters, mostly. The silent caretakers whose title of 'aunty' opens the door to more responsibility the longer they stay. They become the third parent, the sous-chef, the play-mate, the guard on duty. All this and more, and yet they're hardly recognized for it.
Introducing 'Sunday Best'
Where do aunties seek refuge from the day-to-day responsibilities?
Religion plays a major role in Nigeria and for many Christians, church is where social events take place. Churches usually divide their congregation based on age groups so peers are seated in sections where they get to mingle, catch up on a little gossip, and escape the need to represent the home they come from for that time.
Most times, we tend to catch a glimpse of who they really are on Sundays. A day where they can use church as an excuse to be themselves for half a day and not the duty they carry once we are back home for Sunday rice. They are the silent partners of a community that downplays their impact in the success of such a community as a whole.
Why have you chosen to recognize these silent heroes through your art?
I wanted to highlight how an expectation can easily be taken for granted. How easy it is for us to let those that play a huge part in our lives just blend into the background.
Look how essential workers were needed in every aspect of life during COVID-19, and yet most are struggling to pay their bills, their work isn't acknowledged, or they're treated as replaceable.- Amsa Yaro, London-based artist
We shouldn't wait until everything falls apart to realize how important they are — we should always show them that they matter.
How does your illustration, Sunday Best, capture this sentiment?
Sunday Best is my way of highlighting the unseen players of our community. Those who keep the lights going, the water flowing; the nurses, janitors, aunts and uncles. All through 2020 and even into 2021, the conversation of valuing and properly paying essential workers continues, when in fact, we wouldn't have a community without them.
Sunday Best features an aunty, typically one that was in my community. All dressed up for Sunday but with a straight face as she knows the heavy duty she carries. The background features London, the Forest City, with the Thames river weaving through.
You can learn more about Amsa Yaro here.