Over the last few years, the theme of women's strength and courage has motivated Anne Jenkins to begin some pretty ambitious art projects.

Over the last few years, the theme of women's strength and courage has motivated Anne Jenkins to begin some pretty ambitious art projects.

Last summer Jenkins, a Milford resident and well-known artist in the community, debuted an installation project that chronicled African Americans' journey through the Underground Railroad. The project, which debuted this summer at the Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover, was inspired by the courageous spirit of Harriet Tubman, the runaway slave who's beloved for risking her own life to lead countless slaves through the Underground Railroad.

Intent on ending this year with a bang, Jenkins, a mixed-media folk artist, recently debuted a new multimedia exhibit that pays honor to women all over the world. The exhibit spotlights women who maintain their dignity, despite enduring hardships such as poverty or living through civil wars. This project is titled "Cycle of Support." This exhibit is on display at the Mezzanine Gallery located in the Carvel State Office Building in Wilmington through Dec. 27.

The works in "Cycle of Support" features mediums such as acrylics on watercolor paper/canvas, and canvases that have been sewn into burlap.

The overarching theme of the exhibit spotlights women's strength and courage, and the exhibit depicts this through more than a dozen old and new pieces that have been broken down into three segments.

The third segment features new works from Jenkins.

One of the pieces is titled "Seeking Shelter." It portrays a painting of a Syrian woman standing under a piece of burlap. The burlap is symbolic of shelter, something that's hard to come by in the war-torn Syria, Jenkins said.

Another piece is "Market Day" and it features African women leaving the marketplace with goods on their head.

Jenkins, who's a native of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, says the painting is purposed to remind, or inform, people that walking great distances from the market place isn't a glamorous task. Yet a number of African women still do it with grace to support themselves and their families.

Segments 1 and 2

The first segment of Cycle of Support starts with Jenkins' Underground Railroad project. This component begins with African Africans leading peaceful lives in Africa, but then it quickly transitions to their enslavement, the Underground Railroad and finally freedom.

The second segment in the exhibit highlights Jenkins' works from her "Vukuzakhe Project." The project, which exhibited last year at the Anita Peghini-Raber Gallery in Rehoboth Beach, is a unique collaboration between South African sewers whose stitchings of African landscapes and scenes have been incorporated into Jenkins' paintings, which also depicts the same themes.

Fifty percent of each painting Jenkins sells from "The Vukuzakhe Project" benefits the Amandawe Support Group, an organization in KwaZulu-Natal that's run by KwaZulu women to help orphans whose parents died from AIDS. The "Vukuzakhe Project" is particularity personal to Jenkins since KwaZulu is her hometown.

Jenkins paid homage to these KwaZulus through her painting, "The Shield." The piece depicts Jenkins and her sister, Ruth Seipp, surrounded by the KwaZulu women, who appear larger in stature than Jenkins and Seipp. The size of the women in the piece is important as it represents the hard work these ladies have put in to support the AIDS orphans.

Although Jenkins and Seipp have pitched in to help the KwaZulu women (Jenkins has sent approximately $5,000 to the Amandawe Support Group, which is the equivalent of $50,000 in African currency; and Seipp, who lives in Cape Town in South Africa, taught the KwaZulu women how to sew so they could sell their artwork through "The Vukuzakhe Project"), Jenkins says she and her sister's contributions still pale in comparison to the valiant efforts of the KwaZulu ladies.

"They do most of the work," Jenkins said. "We do less work. They run soup kitchens and they help look after the kids. What [Seipp and I] do is encourage them. I help them by selling their works. We have a smaller role, so I made us as the smaller figures."


WHAT "Cycle of Support" art exhibit by Anne Jenkins

WHEN Gallery is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

WHERE Mezzanine Gallery, 820 N. French St., Wilmington


INFO Visit artsdel.org or call (302) 577-8283