October 30, 2012
Emerging African-Canadian artist Suritah Wignall celebrates women, diverse beauty and her African roots through art — and her greeting card line.
By Sandra De Grandis and Sophie Tolias
Sweet Like Mango, the Toronto-based online company, celebrates Black women and diversity across the globe, producing vibrant greeting cards and stationery that depict self-empowerment, self-love, encouragement, strength and inner beauty.
The line of gift cards and prints is based on paintings by African-Canadian visual artist Suritah Wignall.
“Painting is my passion. It is a way to celebrate the beauty of culture, women and diversity,” Suritah said.
In 2004, after noticing that people loved her work but couldn’t always afford to buy an original, she founded Sweet Like Mango, providing an alternative to a full-size piece by using the imagery of her paintings to create art cards and prints.
In 2009, Suritah created Black Lily Arts in an attempt to give women of colour something she found so difficult to access — a place for healing, reflecting and creativity.
A grassroots arts collective providing free art workshops to women and youth of colour in underserved communities across the GTA, Black Lily Arts offers a space for creativity, dialogue and interaction in a safe, non-judgmental environment. The main focus is to work with women and youth who are survivors of violence or emotional, physical or verbal abuse. Through the art projects, participants gain skills, share stories and express themselves.
In November 2011, Suritah launched a special greeting card collection that she worked on with Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, record producer, activist and actress Erykah Badu: The Badu Effect. Featuring Suritah’s paintings and collages, the cards depict images of Erykah Badu as a celebration of women of colour, feminine strength, beauty and diversity. A portion of the proceeds go to Suritah’s Black Lily Arts collective and Erykah’s Beautiful Love Incorporated Non Profit Development (BLIND).
What Suritah hopes to achieve through her work is the acknowledgment of the importance and benefit of strong, nourishing communities and the empowerment of women everywhere.
Living in Canada, it is sometimes easy to forget the women around the world who are marginalized, struggling and treated as sub-humans. But even across the GTA, there are women subject to violence from partners or family members and friends.
The art that Suritah produces is a way to showcase that women do have the potential to rise out of their situations and to spread the message of empowerment and respect, both in Canada and around the world.
“On a personal level, as a woman who’s been through a lot, I know how women struggle and how they live through intense situations,” Suritah said. “I work with women through art, and the collaboration with Erykah Badu is a way to spread awareness.”
An active member in her community for many years, Suritah has worked/volunteered at the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre, the Red Door Shelter, Toronto Housing and other GTA community organizations. She also coordinated and facilitated murals for Amnesty’s 60th anniversary celebration, and she holds art workshops for women and youth survivors of violence at various Toronto agencies.
She believes giving back to the community makes the world a better place. For anyone wanting to volunteer but not knowing where to begin, Suritah offers some simple advice: “It’s good to know what your passion is and to bring it to the community. Do some research about what you feel strongly about, network with people and put yourself out there.”
While some people feel that local work isn’t enough, Suritah disagrees. “Any little bit that you’re doing is amazing. The more you do here, the bigger the impact you can create in other countries.”
- Realize your passion and bring it to your community.
- Check out Sweet Like Mango Creations