In March 2017, the iconic Fearless Girl statue by Kristen Visbal took its place on Wall Street, standing defiantly and staring down New York’s bronze Charging Bull by Arturo Di Modica. Now, in 2018, it’s time for Africa’s own Fearless Girl to take a stand.
Commissioned by RMB and created by Cape Town-based artist Marieke Prinsloo-Rowe, the artwork shows a proud and courageous African teenage girl walking alongside a contemporary concrete lion. The lion doubles up as a functional bench, and invites viewers to sit and contemplate the ideals inherent in ‘fearless femininity’.
Having been inspired by Wall Street’s Fearless Girl, RMB envisioned a life-size, Afro-centric version of the artwork that would speak to the values of individuality, courage, and strength.
After embarking on a nationwide search for female sculptors, Prinsloo-Rowe’s concept, which depicted a quintessentially African Fearless Girl walking alongside a male lion, captured this vision. The lion references the RMB brand’s ‘Lion and Key’ logo. The work, which debuted at the 2018 RMB Turbine Art Fair, now forms part of RMB’s Think Precinct Collection and is an inspiring, functional, and engaging artwork, to be enjoyed by RMB and all its visitors.
Art captures the spirit of the time
RMB CEO James Formby explains that when RMB invests in the arts, it is also investing in the lives of young artists and communities, and contributing to the growth of the overall creative economy. And when it comes to transformation in the workplace, art can be a leading factor in how a company and its workforce communicates.
‘RMB believes that arts, culture and creativity can contribute to a strengthened economy,’ explains Formby. ‘But more importantly, they can capture the spirit of the time, transform lives and bind together, not only hearts and souls, but entire societies and nations. Having a corporate art collection on-site helps to reflect the culture of the company in an unspoken way. For example, Africa’s Fearless Girl expresses how diversity and gender equality are valued and embraced. Our people and clients have always had easy access to the palpable energy that original creativity exudes. Artworks are generously displayed across workspaces and our newly refurbished Think Precinct hosts our most extraordinary sculptures in one central, outdoor area, for all to experience.’
RMB’s Athena initiative: Towards equality in the workplace
As a demonstration of RMB’s commitment to promoting equality in the workplace, Africa’s Fearless Girl complements the brand’s gender equality initiative Athena, first launched in 2015. Through the Athena initiative, RMB works towards creating an environment where women feel they are empowered to achieve their individual career goals, while growing the number of women in leadership in finance.
‘New York’s original Fearless Girl highlighted a need to change the perception of what it takes to build a successful company. This is what we wanted to create for RMB – but with a distinctly African narrative,’ explains Dharshni Padayachee, Inclusion and Equality Lead at RMB.
‘Our Fearless Girl takes her rightful place alongside the male lion in our Think Precinct, reiterating one of Athena’s key principles of not having to “man up” to have a successful career at RMB. Athena is, however, not a women’s conversation. Instead, it is a business imperative with the clear agenda being to focus on both men and women, together with the collaborative diversity they offer. This makes Africa’s Fearless Girl an incredible beacon of hope to young women in Africa – encouraging us to lead in a way that is authentic.’
Extending her reach
Linda Kachingwe-Sisya, who oversees RMB’s marketing portfolio for Africa, feels that ‘a woman’s place’ in society has become the narrative around women in Africa, despite them taking up leadership roles at a presidential level, in parliaments and in boardrooms – alongside their traditional responsibilities at home and in the community. ‘Africa’s Fearless Girl is a constant reminder of the important role women play in positively influencing economies at all levels of society. RMB plans to extend Fearless Girl’s presence to some of our offices across Africa next year,’ Kachingwe-Sisya says.
The addition of Fearless Girl to the Merchant Place campus also endorses the international 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign.
‘At RMB, we want to create a workplace where everyone, irrespective of gender, can thrive and achieve success in their careers,’ says Co-head of RMB’s Investment Banking division Emrie Brown. ‘It is unbelievable how a sculpture can encapsulate so much and with such beautiful simplicity. For me, Africa’s Fearless Girl demonstrates some key characteristics for success – optimism, courage, and resilience to deal with challenges that might come her way, and focus and tenacity to pursue her goals with loads of positive energy.’
In addition to the life-size bronze, RMB commissioned a limited edition of 20 maquettes, 60 centimetres in height, which were launched at the RMB Turbine Art Fair. Such was the appeal of the narrative that Africa’s Fearless Girl conveys, that the full edition was sold out on the first evening of the Fair. Reasons to purchase ranged from personal art-collecting, to acquiring gifts for ‘fearless female’ loved ones. Particularly meaningful was the story of the St Anne’s Diocesan College class of 2014, who matriculated this year, and collectively purchased edition number 14 to present to their school at their matric farewell ceremony. The maquette will most likely find her home in the foyer of the new theatre complex, due for completion in early 2019.
RMB believes that everywhere she goes, Africa’s Fearless Girl will serve as a visual reminder of an environment where all people are encouraged to fearlessly reach their potential; at the same time taking the equality conversation across society.