African Women Acting (AWA) founder and executive director Sonia Aimy knows how difficult it can be to promote yourself as a visual artist.
As a performer in Italy, Aimy was faced with the challenge of having to build her own brand, producing and recording her own music and scheduling shows, all while trying to grow as an artist.
Aimy opened the AWA Niagara African Cultural Space on June 25, providing artists with a variety of workshops and tools like a marketing team to help them succeed and “amplify what these artists are doing.”
“The artistic development workshops are focused on the various issues are related to artists. Simple things like music creation, brand. How do you create your brand? What makes you unique as an artist and how do you approach managers and booking agents? How do you do your marketing and promotions? added Aimy.
The group also speaks to women’s issues faced across the globe.
“African Women Acting is a platform for working with women in the arts and not just only in the arts, but we work with women through the arts,” noted Aimy. “We speak about various women’s related issues, which could be violence, it could be employment, it could be newcomers.”
Anany Ibrahim was in the group who helped convince Aimy that the Niagara Region needed its own branch of AWA, separate from the non-profit’s headquarters in Toronto.
She immigrated to the Niagara Region five years ago from Sudan, and now works at AWA as their administrative assistant, helping to create a space like the one she wanted to have when she moved.
“As a black woman who just came to Canada, I did not see (an) organization like this for us, as black women,” explained Ibrahim. “I wanted to see more of that like in the area, and to have a community that brought us all together.”
Ibrahim and others presented Aimy with a plethora of information explaining why Niagara Falls would be the ideal space to expand AWA’s work.
“I was so impressed, I was compelled to say: if I am not going to do this with these young women, then I’m not fulfilling that purpose,” said Aimy.
Soon after the group began looking for a physical space, and settled on their current location on Queen Street. The interior is covered in colorful art, designed to make the place feel inviting and joyful from the moment guests enter.
The space in Niagara Falls is also a place to create community and help individuals come together. One way AWA does this is by hosting events open to the entire community, like African/Afro dance classes every Wednesday evening.
“I love the dance program we are having now. People come here, we dance, we have fun. We have lots of people coming in,” Ibrahim added.
Another major way AWA is seeking to support artists and engage with the community is the African Women Acting Niagara Falls Festival coming up in September at the Oakes Garden Theatre.
Throughout the two-day event, visitors will have the change to enjoy African and Caribbean food, dance, music, storytelling, spoken word presentations and interactive workshops.
“The festival coming up will be featuring artists, global music artists and poets and vendors. These are all award-winning artists and local artists as well. We have Sammy Jackson from St. Catharines, we have Rick Rose from Niagara Falls,” said Aimy.
She encourages people to come out to the festival and experience the event, get to know some of the artists and continue to support the work that African Women Acting does in the community.
More information about the work AWA does and the upcoming festival in Niagara Falls can be found on their website, africanwomenacting.org.
STORY BEHIND THE STORY: After learning about the opening of a new African Women Acting cultural space in Niagara Falls, reporter Brilee Sears wanted to learn more about the goals of the organization and what they are doing to help promote the work of Black women in the community.