A top maternity hospital consultant is gearing up for his biggest art exhibition – during which he aims to confront society’s “judgement” of how Irish mothers feed their babies
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Afif El-Khuffash, 44, has swapped his stethoscope for a paintbrush and will unveil two new works at Art Source in Dublin’s RDS this weekend from November 11-13.
The neonatologist and lactation consultant at the Rotunda Hospital is also using his art to challenge what he claims is the sexualisation and “huge stigma” around breastfeeding.
“Women are always judged, no matter what choice they make. We should never judge mothers but simply provide the support and safe environment for them to raise and feed their babies,” he said.
“The fact is that 80% of new mothers want to breastfeed, but by the first week after their babies are born, only 40-50% are doing so and there are many reasons for that.”
The Kuwaiti-born consultant, who was part of a Canadian hospital team which saved the life of a baby girl born at just 380g, went public with his artworks two years ago – and plans to devote himself full-time to art once he retires.
He will join over 160 exhibitors at Ireland’s top art fair at the RDS, running from November 11-13.
The father-of-two’s new works celebrate the ‘unshakeable bond’ between mothers and babies.
But he also wants them to challenge a “societal sexualisation” surrounding breasts.
“It is so pervasive in our culture and I hope that women breast-feeding infants in public will finally be unilaterally accepted as normal.
“Through my work and my art, I am determined to work towards improving the breastfeeding environment and challenge the current taboo thinking.
“Women can get criticised for breastfeeding, and they can get criticised for not breastfeeding. It’s a lose-lose situation and there is still a huge stigma around the issue.
“My paintings are intimate and raw, and encompass the wide range of emotion, experiences, struggles and elation that come with the breastfeeding journey.”
Dr El-Khuffash says he has no plans to quit medicine but will pursue the art world full-time once he retires.
Over 15,000 people are expected to attend Art Source, which will feature the best in contemporary Irish and international artists and galleries.
Art lovers also have the unique chance to get their hands on 100 pieces of original artwork for €100 each on a first-come, first-served basis on the opening morning of the show – November 11.
An exhibition of works by Damien Hirst, the English artist who has just burned hundreds of his artworks, will be the centrepiece of the show.
Art Source will also play host to a unique sculpture garden featuring over 40 top Irish and international artists.
“Art Source offers visitors the opportunity to purchase a one-off affordable original artwork to make their home unique and also the opportunity to meet the artists and hear about their work,” said show organiser, Patrick O’Sullivan.
“The event is where the industry meets to see what is going on in the Irish art world, and this year is our biggest yet, with the widest range of art styles anywhere in Ireland.”
Art Source takes place at the RDS from November 11-13, admission is €10 adults. Children under-16 free if accompanied by a parent or guardian. Opening times: Nov 11: 11am-9pm, Nov 12 and 13: 10am-6pm. See Artsource.ie.