• Carla Vreeland

Artist Tonia Nneji Expresses the Trauma that she experienced with PCOS

For many women, the diagnosis of a health complication may also come with the feelings of shame and embarrassment.

From stories of women whose concerns have been shut down regarding their health to those who had to move from doctor to doctor to find one who was informed about her condition, womens’ health care is notoriously unreliable and close minded.

Tonia Nneji, an artist with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), who experienced the collapse of the healthcare system in Nigeria, created the exhibit, You May Enter, which addresses much of the trauma and embarrassment that women with PCOS often endure.

After experiencing the weight gain, insomnia, and hair loss among other symptoms that arose as a result of PCOS and realizing that Nigerian doctors had a difficult time managing the disease, Nneji worked to create the exhibit in order to educate women about the condition.

“My exhibition You May Enter creates a space for discussion around these themes and experiences that hardly ever make it into public discourse,” said Nneji.

Nneji’s Igbo and African background is evident in her style of painting, from the color pallets to the use of African-themed fabrics and patterns.

Nneji claimed to have utilized bright colors in the paintings in order to battle the notion that sadness and pain should always be portrayed in “black and white or gray and brown.”

The fabrics in the paintings are also representative of when Nneji’s mother had to sell her valuable fabrics in order to pay for Nneji’s medical bills and moving between religious institutions to search for a treatment for PCOS, something that Nneji claims Nigeria’s healthcare forces many women to do.

Nneji described her paintings as showing the “joy in the midst of sadness and trauma, comfort, an act of defiance and the role of religion in a typical African society.”

The exhibit sheds light upon a rarely spoken about subject, allowing women to come closer to one another in understanding.





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