Visual artist and #AfricaNoFilter fellow Phoebe Boswell was born in Kenya and now lives in London. Through her work as part of the Ford-created initiative, she advocates for African citizens to take ownership of their own lives, their history, and their own stories, using their power to change the narrative around Africa and enable social change.
“It’s important to document and celebrate and center our stories in our voices, in the languages that we wish to speak in, so they’re not co-opted by people who, for whatever reason, choose not to fully see us,” she says.
As a Kenyan who grew up in the Arabian Gulf and now resides in Great Britain, Boswell’s multidisciplinary work explores issues of identity and belonging, common among members of the African diaspora. She believes her expatriate upbringing afforded her a rare freedom to see the world without prejudices. It was only later as an adult when she became acutely aware of how others might see her through the lens of race and gender. Boswell’s art has allowed her space to explore both her personal identity, as well as collective identities -- poetically revealing and opening up for discussion the complex nature of being.
She explains further: “I grew up as an expatriate, very much feeling the freedom of being a person of the world, a citizen of the world, not caring too much about race or class or gender—which was an amazing childhood in a way, but I also didn’t really acknowledge or appreciate how the world perhaps would see me as a woman and as a black person. My work becomes a place where I can define myself in terms that are mine, not terms that are placed upon me.”
Boswell is part of the #FutureIsHers multimedia series of interviews, essays, and more, celebrating the innovators, risk-takers, and change-makers the Ford Foundation has proudly supported and the impact they’ve had on the lives of women and girls everywhere. Despite the many challenges women and girls face, around the world they’re rising up. Determined and persistent, they’re leading the way in showing us what gender justice looks like, disrupting inequality and creating a world where social change is possible: The future is hers.