FEATURE: Lady Kitt – WORTH | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Portrait of Martine D’ellard by Lady Kitt

Artist, activist, Nasty Woman, paper cutter, performer and researcher, Lady Kitt has many strings to her bow. Kitt’s latest project, WORTH, will be exhibited at Ampersand Inventions, Newcastle from Friday 2nd-Wednesday 7th November and it has evolved into one of her most powerful pieces of work to date.

“A week before the Nasty Women exhibition opened in Newcastle last year, everyone was like ‘oh I’m really excited to see your piece Kitt’ and I was like ‘oh fuck, I haven’t made anything!’. So I created the first piece which was [a portrait of] Malala Yousafzai and I had no idea that it was going to be a series. For a while I’d been interested in (and really upset by) the Caroline Criado Perez campaign to have more women on banknotes and how she treated horrifically during that, so there’d been something bubbling away in the back of my head for a long time.”

Kitt’s portraits depict the image of strong and influential women through cutting tiny hearts out of £50 banknotes. Her portraits have received high praise, and after a successful crowdfunding campaign, her exhibition will feature 13 pieces to complete the first part of the series.

I would really like to see more women and non-binary people celebrated on banknotes, in public sculptures, in libraries, in courses at universities…you know, everywhere

By depicting inspirational women from all walks of life, Kitt hopes the exhibition will highlight the areas in which women are still underrepresented and discriminated against. One of her favourite portraits has an interesting, and heartbreaking, story: “There’s a portrait of Khadija Saye which is the only piece that’s actually of somebody who’s not still alive. She was a Gambian/British photographer and at the last Venice Biennale she had some of her work showcased and her career was taking off in a big way. But her and her mother died in the Grenfell Tower fire which is really horrendous. I made this work knowing that it would probably be the one piece that I’d make of somebody who wasn’t still alive, because I want it to be very contemporary, but I just felt she really needed to be known and the more people that know about her and know about her work, the more people can know about that awful tragedy, how preventable it was and what we can do to hopefully stop things like that from happening in the future.”

Alongside Khadija Saye and Malala Yousafzai, local women’s rights campaigner Martine D’ellard also appears within the project. “I met Martine through Nasty Women North East and she is an amazing woman; she has spent her whole life campaigning for equal rights for everyone, not just women. A few months ago, via social media, I asked for people to nominate amazing women as possible subjects for the WORTH project and several people sent me really beautiful nominations for Martine.”

It’s not just the artwork that Kitt wants to share with everyone, she hopes to inspire and trigger change. “I would really like to see more women and non-binary people celebrated on banknotes, in public sculptures, in libraries, in courses at universities…you know, everywhere.”

The opening of Lady Kitt’s exhibition also marks the beginning of a year-long Social Practice Residency at Commercial Union House. Kitt’s contribution, Mess Making As Social Glue, focuses on the social and community benefits of making art, with a workshop taking place at Stockton’s ARC on Monday 5th November.

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