23. RIKKI ASHER
For the Women of South Africa, Central America and
the Lower East Side, 1985, 10’ x 20’
In late 1983, Rikki attended a talk sponsored by Artists for Social Responsibility and met Eva Cockcroft whose slide presentation “Art in Revolutionary Nicaragua” showed murals created with other internationalistas. “I introduced myself,” Rikki recalls, “and asked how one goes about painting murals in Nicaragua. She told me about Arts for a New Nicaragua. A week later, I was in Boston, planning a trip to Managua with artists, musicians, and dancers.”
In the mural, Rikki painted herself, taking a break from her portrait of
“a South African woman who stands proudly in front of an African village and wears traditional clothing. Her hair wrapped in several pieces of colorful African fabric, she balances a basin on her head. I hoped to capture her grace.
A second South African woman, a jug on her head, holds a child. I wanted to capture her strength. Between them is a Sandinista woman. To the right in front of a Central American landscape, a young girl harvests coffee beans, a job delegated to students during the Revolution. These portraits are based on the inspiring images of men, women, and children found in the book Nicaragua by photographer Susan Meiselas. A Nicaraguan red macaw sits on a tree branch overlooking the scene. The lives of these beautiful birds are threatened; El Salvadoran poachers capture and sell them in the capital’s central market as ‘Nicaraguan products.’ I included the bird as a tribute to its beauty and its right to live.
“On the lower right, the woman hanging laundry represents the women of the Lower East Side, suggesting that, in a gentrified neighborhood, laundry lines will not be acceptable.”
In Rikki’s 1985 self-portrait, we saw an artist creating a mural. Today, Rikki’s presence on her extant mural reminds us that, in her words, “the issues important then are still relevant now. La Lucha Continua!”
Rikki remembers working on La Lucha Continua and “Eva telling me that one day I would lead groups in painting murals. Over the past 17 years, my CUNY Queens College art students have been creating murals on campus with me and with their own pupils in various New York City public schools.”