Arts & Academia


When it comes to teaching and other academic roles, passion for the job is an important factor as it goes a long way to shape an attitude to work. Although some aspects of the academia are still male-dominated, women have recorded outstanding achievements in their given fields and this in itself serves as a source of inspiration to women across regions who aspire to engage in this noble profession.
The Sciences have also been impacted by a huge number of special women all around the world including Africa.
In Sudan, Nanoparticle Physicist Dr. Nashwa Eassa is making waves through her research work which has earned her local and international commendation.

Dr. Nashwa is an assistant professor of physics at Al-Neelain University in Khartoum. She is also the founder of Sudanese Women in Science, a non-profit organization aiming to facilitate the participation of Sudanese women in science.
She has been drawn to physics since her childhood days, always being curious about how the universe works.


Dr. Nashwa obtained her BSc in physics from the University of Khartoum in 2004. In 2007, she bagged a Master’s Degree in Nanotechnology and Material Physics from Sweden’s Linköping University and after a while, she pursued a Ph.D. degree from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa which she obtained in 2012.


During her Ph.D. studies, she carried out a research on exploring ways to minimize film accumulation of high-speed semiconductors and the interferences with electricity flow. This research sang her fame abroad and earned her the Elsevier Foundation Award for Early Career Women Scientists in the Developing World in 2015.

She also carried out other researches including developing a way to use solar radiation to purify water and investigating the possibility of splitting water molecules to collect hydrogen.

Her progress in science moved her to establish a Non-governmental organization in 2013: the Sudanese Women in Science strictly for women who are science conscious.

Julie Mehretu is a contemporary Ethiopian-born American artist. She was born in the year 1970 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, not as an artist but as the first child of a professor who moved with his family to East Lansing, Michigan in 1977, to occupy a teaching position at Michigan State University.

Julie grew up with a deep flair for painting and with self-encouragement, she was able to fulfill her dreams.

Julie studied at University Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar (1990–91), earned a BA from Kalamazoo College, Michigan (1992), she began to lay a foundation for an art career independently before attending the MFA program at the Rhode Island School of Design, where she received her degree in 1997. She was a resident of the CORE Program, Glassell School of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (1997–98) and the Artist-in-Residence Program at the Studio Museum in Harlem (2001).

She is happily married and a daughter-in-law to an Australian author and poet Lily Brett whose husband is the celebrated Australian artist David Rankin.

Julie is a peculiar artist whose work is expressed more in large-scale abstract paintings, her work carries the attributes of very important 20th-century painters, like Wassily Kandinsky because they are portrayed with elements of Abstract Expressionism with Pop Art.

Julie has a great sense of taste when it comes to painting that makes her work different from the others.

The difference in Julie’s painting is the composure and uniqueness from the conventional painting of the modern day. This has brought her to the place of recognition and she has received awards in various categories.

Her paintings are done with a different technique of compiled layers of different elements and media; this is done with the use of acrylic paint on canvas overlaid with mark-making.

She engages tools like pencil, pen, ink and thick streams of paint. Unlike common canvases, Julie overlays her canvases with unalike architectural features such as columns, façades, and porticoes combining them with different geographical designs such as building plans and city maps and architectural renderings for stadiums, international airports, and charts.

Among Julie’s awards is the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award (2001), and also she received the recipient of the 2001 Penny McCall Award. She was named as one of the 2005 recipients of the MacArthur Fellowship on September 20, 2005. A John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Award (2005); and the American Art Award from the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2005). Julie Mehretu received the 15th commission of the Deutsche Bank and Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in 2007. And she was awarded the Barnett and Annalee Newman Award In 2013, and the US Department of State Medal of Arts from Secretary of State John Kerry in 2015 and much more.

Her work has been recognized in major exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2007); Detroit Institute of Arts (2006); Walker Art Museum, Minneapolis (2003); and Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo (2003) among others.

She is happily married and resides with her family in New York City, U.S.A.

Ana Mari Cauce is the president of the University of Washington, and the 33rd individual to seat in that position.

She is a Latin America who was born during the Cuba revolution on the 11 of January 1956 in Havana of Cuba Island. On account of the revolution, her family left Cuba when Ana was only three years old and headed to Florida, where she grew up.

While her family settled in Miami, her father Vicente Cauce, who was the minister of education in Cuba, at the time had to work in a shoe factory with his wife Ana Cauce (née Vivanco).

Ana schooled at the University of Miami, where she studied English. She obtained a Bachelor of Arts summa cum laude in English in 1977, and in 1979, she earned her first master’s degree in psychology and the other, Master of Philosophy from the University of Yale 1982.

Before moving to Seattle in 1986, she had worked as a lecturer at the University of Delaware. But when she got a job at the University of Washington, she relocated.

While in Washington, she was known for her standard teaching, scholarship, and advocacy and in 1990 gained tenure, six years later she became Chair of the American Ethnic Studies department. Ana later became the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, however, it wasn’t the end of the road for her, she continued to strive until 2012 when she became the Provost of the University of Washington and was also selected as Board of Regents for the university in 2015.

Based on her efficiency, she became the school’s most preferred choice to succeed her predecessor Michael Young as the president of Washington in 2017.

Ana Mari Cauce is the first permanent woman president of Washington University and also the first Latina to hold that position.

She is known to be passionate about granting access to higher education for all, she also promised to provide full tuition to eligible Washington students who otherwise could not attend college. She is also keen on bridging gaps that have existed among the students as a result of race and diversities, launching an effort to create a more just and diverse community.

Ana has been honoured with various awards, including the Dalmas Taylor Distinguished Contribution Award, the Luis Fernando Esteban Public Service Award, and the James M. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award of the American Psychological Association, the Grace Hopper Exemplary Leadership Award and the Distinguished Contribution Award from the Society for Community Research and Action.


Art is a form of creation and expression of imaginations, thoughts, and fantasies that give meaning and more essence to lifestyle.

The ability to establish an art is the power of relevance given to a piece of art by the artist. Every artist or painter draw inspiration from a source that was or is a part of their existence.

Just like the story of Akunyili Crosby who was born as Njideka Akunyili in Enugu state of Nigeria in 1983.

She is the daughter of the late Dora Nkem Akunyili who was the Director General of National Agency for Food, and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) of Nigeria and Nigerian Minister of Information and Communications from 2008 to 2010.

Akunyili Crosby grew up in the city of Enugu, but she moved to the prestigious all girls’ boarding school in Lagos the Queen’s college Yaba where she had her secondary education.


During her days at Queen’s college, she once desired to add a lighter course to her intense science-based courses, and the only thought that came pushing towards her was painting.

She registered for some art courses which she eventually fell in love with and found herself trying to focus with other of her courses.

After completing her secondary school in 1999, she moved to the US to further her studies at the age of 16. She had left Nigeria with the aim of becoming a medical doctor like her father and her older siblings.

But she was cut in the middle while trying to choose a career path because she had two lovers at that time and didn’t know which of them she wanted to let go.




She took a break and returned to Nigeria, on getting to Nigeria she decided to work. It was while she was working that she made up her mind that she was going to spend the rest of her life painting.

After she made her decisions Njideka went back to America. Meanwhile, she had noticed that the pictures painted by the West about her homeland were nothing better than scenes of crisis. She decided to re-paint those images through her drawings. She considers herself an American and African artist, merging the features of both cultures to make a unique art.

When she returned, she and her older sister stayed in Philadelphia where she studied art at Swarthmore College and post-Baccalaureate Certificate from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. She later took her MFA at Yale and was encouraged to take a teaching job as an assistant.

Akunyili allows her ethnicity, cultural heritage and African experiences to influence her art in order to re-inform the outside world about the competent and better Africa.

She draws her inspiration from the images of the Nigerian culture and her everyday life back in college days.

Her work is recognized and appreciated both in Africa and America with various awards that include the Prix Canson award, an internationally-recognized prize for art on paper. The Next Generation Prize by New Museum, an award for emerging artists. She was also recognized as the top of 10 black artists to celebrate in 2016 and many other recognitions.

She married to a Texan, Justin Crosby and they live in Brooklyn, New York.


Tasneem Zehra Husain is the first female string theorist in Pakistan. Growing up, she was lucky to have well-educated parents who started supporting her from the very beginning. Although at some point in her life she was homeschooled.

Hussain found the regular school boring. She felt like the curriculums were being taken round in circles so she told her father she was tired of going to school because she felt she was lagging behind. It was, however, her father’s idea that she schooled at home to speed up her education to the O Levels. When she turned thirteen, she sat for her O Levels through the British Council and at fifteen she sat for her A Levels.

During her childhood days, much value was not placed on education like it is now, so it was difficult to find a lot of books around. But Hussain’s parent had a lot of books, so she and her brother decided to create a public library where people could borrow books to read.

Hussain was also good at writing. She wrote many articles that were featured in magazines and newspapers. She won an international essay competition in 1988 in California and a Nobel prize essay in Pakistan.

Although her parents were not involved in science, Hussain started developing a deep attraction to science, but her parents, not having an intuitive knowledge in science gave her all the support she needed and through that, she excelled in it.

When she grew much older she began to understand the particular aspect of science she was interested in. She discovered that she had the curiosity toward things, how they worked, and why they work differently from others then she discovered that it had to do with theoretical physics.

She went further to do her BSc in math and physics in the college of Kinnaird Lahore and her MSc in Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad concentrating on physics. She was fortunate to receive a scholarship from Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) for a year-long post-graduate degree in the field of High-Energy Physics at Trieste Italy. She had her Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics from Stockholm University and also obtained her doctorate at Harvard University.

Hussain is Pakistani’s first female string, the theorist. She started to make her academic impact after she left Harvard for Pakistan. She became a member of the Lahore University of Management Sciences and School of Science and Engineering as an Assistant Professor of Physics.

She is a notable figure in the Pakistan educational sector especially in areas that deal on sciences. She is also involved in the Alif Laila Book Bus Society, an educational NGO that caters for underprivileged children.

She is the brain behind the design of the logo for the Pakistan’s world year of physics. She took the Pakistan physics through a journey to the international physics Olympiad.

Mary Oyiela Onyango is a Kenyan woman born on the twentieth of February 1959. Her parents are Mr. and Mrs. Enos and Rosabelle Abukutsa. Mary is the third born of the family amongst eight children which enos and rosabelle had. The both parents loved to their children when Enos saw Mary’s bond to books he supported her with all he had while her mother taught her to be caring and loving.

Mary is a graduate of the University of Nairobi, she holds both bachelor’s and master’s degree of science in agriculture. She had her primary education in Ematsuli Primary School in Emuhya and her secondary education Bunyore Girls High School in Wekhomo from 1966 to 1976.

She got married on 3 April 1987 to Mr. J.C. Onyango and they are blessed with two boys, Douglas and Anthony Onyango.

In 1995, Mary later furthered her education she pursued a doctorate degree in philosophy in Olericulture, Plant Physiology and Nutrition from Wye College, University of London.

Mary became interested in indigenous African vegetables as a result of an illness she had when she was young. She fell ill due to an allergy to animal proteins, which was cured natively by her parents and grandmother using herb leaves like nightshade, jute mallow, pumpkin leaves and sesame paste which were cooked are given to her. These herbs worked perfectly on her, and it became an inspiration that led to her pursuit of agriculture as a career.

Her passion was to unravel the mysteries of the indigenous African vegetables because she knew they had potentials hidden in them. So she sought farmers and did numerous practical researches on indigenous plants and finally, she directed her focus to the nutritional properties of the vegetables.

One of her research was that there is a concentration of protein and iron and are rich in calcium, folate, and vitamins A,C, and E in the amaranth greens, African nightshade, and spider plant that can stop malnutrition in the human body if cooked and fed because they contain nutrient and proteins that can replace the nutrients in meat from those who cannot afford meat. These researches pulled her into working with many restaurants in Kenya in order to find ways of including these more nutritious, indigenous vegetables into their menus’.

Mrs. Mary has been successful in all her researches and she is currently a professor of horticulture at the jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Juja, Kenya. She has extended her work to affect Kenya’s policy-makers such as; the Kenya Health Ministry after several explanations on benefits of indigenous plant the ministry has advised hospitals to use African indigenous vegetables in HIV patients’ diets. Also, she has been able to convey her messages via 20 published peer-reviewed scientific articles.


Esther Nikwambi Mahlangu was born in Middelburg, Mpumalanga, South Africa, on November 11, 1935. She started painting at the age of ten with a great flair for art. She had her mother and grandmother as a guide and they taught and directed her on how to go about it.

The painting had been her family’s trademark and it was a tradition among the Ndebele people of South Africa, where young women are isolated from the society for a period of time to be taught the traditional craft. On this traditional hall of fame, Mahlangu started her journey on painting.

It was also the tradition of the Ndebele people to pass on the traditional motif of their type of painting to their girl-child through dedicated teachings. The core purpose that birthed this traditional rule was the ancient tradition of decorating houses for a particular occasion observed by the people. This ritual is a rite of passage for boys between the age of 18 and 20. At this point, such a boy is expected to be circumcised before he can be confirmed a youth. To celebrate this event the women are to repaint the entire part of their houses with cow dung and natural pigments.

At the early stage of her career, around 1940, advanced paintings which involved the use of modern paints and colourful geometric shapes, emerged. She found out that the use of these modern techniques would be suitable to define Ndebele’s art. This inspired Mahlangu ideas and enhanced her creativity.

She became outstanding in her work, and from her teenage days, she executed professional jobs with her skill in traditional Ndebele art of wall painting. With an excellent work in craft, she became famous and gained international attention that brought high commissions from various places to her.

Her first international recognition was in 1989 when her work was commended at Magiciens de la Terre meaning Magicians of the World; a European art exposition shows that counteracted ethnocentric practices within the contemporary art world.

In 1991, Mahlangu received a big time contract from BMW to create an art car.  She became the first and female non-Westerner to design one of these art cars. The car, a BMW 525i, was the first “African Art Car”. In order to promote the African culture, Mahlangu painted the car with the designs and pattern of the Ndebele tribe.

In 1994, the car was a spectacle at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington DC Showcase. It was mind blowing because her designs were unique; it was something no one has used or seen before.


With her root in tradition, Mahlangu based her designs on traditional techniques which she engaged tireless because she discovers that her strength lies in her traditional root.  And as she progressed, she began creating a new path from other contemporaries and she experienced challenged by artistic counter influences.

 In 1997 British Airways planes used her design on their tail.

Currently, Mahlangu runs a school of art and craft where she guides young girls to achieve a dream in painting only, just like her mother and granny did for her. She is not reluctant to share her knowledge with the young people around her who are inspired by her success story and aim to be better than her.