photo by Kelly Walsh
Gabrielle Le Roux
Gabrielle was born in London, raised mostly in South Africa and has lived in the Caribbean, London, Amsterdam and the Canary Islands. She is self-taught as an artist and started drawing portraits of people in her community when she lived in the Caribbean in the 1980s and then stopped drawing for many years.
On returning to South Africa in 1992 she worked as an activist with women’s rights, AIDS awareness and gay rights through various NGO’s and institutions until 2000. During her four years running the Women’s Media Watch doing advocacy, training and activism around the representation (and lack of it) of women in the media, she travelled to Cuba, Philippines, Montreal, Zimbabwe and London to give input in conferences and workshops on media and human rights issues. In 2000 she went to New York for the UN Beijing +5 Women’s Assembly as part of the Global Women’s Media Team.
In 2001 she developed the concept of portrait and story projects on a return visit to the Caribbean and her first project was about women over the age of a hundred including the world’s oldest woman. She drew and interviewed ten women in the island of Dominica and the resulting exhibition there was the first of her portrait and story projects which she sees as a continuation of her activism.
Combining first person stories with portraits drawn from life is about paying personal tribute to people who do extraordinary work and make brave choices in the face of great prejudice. Usually they are not sufficiently celebrated in our society. It is also about researching, documenting and highlighting social issues in an alternative way.
The interaction with the person she is drawing is a crucial part of the process – it is a rich and intense journey and gives the person a tangible experience of being seen. The portraits are normally done in one sitting which may take an entire day.