An exhibition by Piloya IreneCurators: Sascia Bailer, Nantume Violet
26th Nov – 10th Dec 2022 Zodongo, Gulu Plot 52A Eden Road
“We escaped to nearby forests for safety. During looting, houses were burnt, lips and ears lopped off and people’s heads were either blown off by bullets or slaughtered by machetes. Children asked to slaughter their fathers, women and girls were raped! Forests were safer than homes, trees protected better than houses.”
Like trees, humans can also suffer from “transplant shocks,” from violent uprootings from their homes. The Loboyo-born artist Piloya Irene takes inspiration from trees in their ambivalences, their sense of shelter and their fragility to whither. For the exhibition “There is Hope in the Tears of Separation” the artist explores barks of trees as an entry point to connect her own biography involving displacement and disconnection across three generations in her immediate family. Her interest in using tree fibers is informed by distant yet vivid memories of her childhood. Specific memories became more present as the artist searched for tree barks in Ghana, where she currently resides. For this exhibition, Piloya combines Kyenkyen from Ghana and Lubugo from Uganda in search for both: shelter from traumatic experiences and the longing to (re)connect to the world.
As Piloya introduces acid onto the barkcloth, she makes tangible the destructive effects of war migration and exposure to extreme environments and how it has impacted mental states. With focus on the histories of origins of both barkcloths, the artist creates works layered with intimate chronicles of recollections of home, missed heritage, refuge and a longing for the familiar. The works thus eloquently weave together personal memories and political uprisings, as Gulu city is tainted with the tumultuous 1980s era of Uganda’s so-called “Kony War'' that led to recruitment of the largest child soldiers’ army by the Lord’s Resistance Army; historical turmoil that forced Piloya to leave Gulu at the age of seven, in 2000.
The exhibition “There is Hope in the Tears of Separation” features five artworks by the artist through which she renders visible the political tensions, the fragility of absences and presences, of destruction and recollection: State of Fear are 130 bleach drawings on Lubugo whose continuous self-destruction counteracts the idea that the mind protects itself by banishing moments of trauma – while, at the same time, they allude to the minds´ neuronal capacity to adapt to new environments.
Yesterday is Gone are 60 prints of archival images on Kyenkyen paper. This collection re-imagines the idea of a home through the depiction of domestic and familiar spaces that are interlaced with private images of the artist and her daughter. The installation Beyond Transparency documents the reaction between sodium hypochlorite and barkcloth, while the viewer listens to a monologue sound piece that grapples with the state of unconsciousness, in which one's mind escapes from the body. A transparent container consists of sodium hypochlorite reacting on the barkcloth fabric throughout the duration of the exhibition time lapse. The installation is an experiment to allow for these processes to be experienced in real time and space.
In the video work Face on Fire the body performs what it means to confront the past; the staring gaze of the artists evokes a sense of the present blinking at the viewer. The artist explores the fragility and strength of the human condition under volition. The video work Nightmares of the Bottom is a suggestive and symbolic reflection and narrative of the artists’ connection to what she imagines to be home, building from trees and photographs of her home in the village.
Piloya Irene´s conceptual works invite the viewer to find glimpses of hope in the sorrow of shared histories of displacement and (be)longing, to search for fertile grounds to cure the effects of violent separations and uprooting.
Personal experience in relation to History, Emotions, Memories and Cultural diversities provide inspiration for my work. My works not only speak for me but also for those that are marginalized or minoritised due to circumstances such as conflicts, sexism and racism. I use natural fiber derived from tree barks to depict the neuroplasticity of the mind and also experiment with various materials. My sculptures are cast using adhesive and the barkcloth material and recently I am working with the raffia ropes which are also a form of natural fiber derived from tree bark made in the Northern part of Ghana. Sodium hypochlorite appears in my work from time to time since I also prefer experimenting to acquire a process of reaction that is endless. The idea of construction and deconstruction, merging of spaces to depict the mind’s fragility. I make tangible the destructive effects of war migration and exposure to extreme environments and how it has impacted mental states. I aim to create works layered with intimate chronicles of recollections of home and a longing for the familiar. The works thus eloquently weave together personal memories and effects of political uprisings.
Short Biography of Piloya Irene
(b. 1993, Gulu, Uganda)
Piloya Irene is a multi-form conceptual artist currently based in Kumasi, Ghana. Piloya uses sculpture, painting and film to explore personal experience of displacement and its effects, memory and history in relation to place, identity and belonging. She has a Post Graduate Diploma in Art Education from Kyambogo University 2019, Bachelor's Degree in Industrial Fine Art and Design from Uganda Christian University 2016 and is currently pursuing a Master’s program in Painting and Sculpture at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi-Ghana.
Piloya participated in documenta fifteen as part of the blaxTERLINES collective that collaborated with Gudskul collective in Kassel, Germany. She was part of the GASTHOFF 2022 in Frankfurt Germany, where blaxTERLINES worked with Staedelschule and various international artists. In 2021, she worked with CAI, a USA based organization that empowers the girl child in various parts of the world as an art consultant. In 2020, Piloya exhibited her painting “Fearless” at the UWONET annual celebrations of women’s day in Uganda. Piloya is now part of UNDER GROUND, Kampala, an art space run by Nantume Violet, the organizer of the international arts exchange programme “Travel somewhere nice” that visited Ghana last year for an exchange program, where Piloya was among the artists that time. In 2018, her paintings featured the Okuki-women rising collectively through art reflecting on gender related struggles and successes. Piloya has worked with Wajuku artists collective on a research project for the Research Centre Society of Groningen in Nairobi, Kenya in 2017. She was part of the History in Progress Uganda collective art project that depicted the "Ekifananyi Kya Muteesa". In Ebifananyi 8 "The king pictured by many '' curated by Andrea Stultiens and exhibited at FotoMuseum Antwerp, Belgium and Makerere art gallery in 2017. Piloya participated in the "Surfaces," a conceptual Drawing workshop and exhibition at Afriart gallery, Kampala 2017. She participated in the Parallel Portraits Project of course 2016 under the theme "we, people in transition," exhibited at Academie Minerva Praediniussingel in Groningen, Netherlands. She exhibited her work "Rebirth" during the first Annual member's exhibition of 32° East; Ugandan Arts Trust in 2016 at Humurah Hotel, Kampala. She has showcased her work at Bayimba International festival of the Arts 2016 and Milege World music festival in 2016 and 2017.
Artist : Piloya Irene
Curators : Sascia Bailer and Nantume Violet
Project management : Nantume Violet
Project Production : UNDER GROUND Contemporary Art
Education Programme : Piloya Irene
Translation : Ondoki Charles Torach
Photographer : Atiko Anthony
Akpene Geoffrey Biekro
Rebecca De Marchi
Frederick Ebenezer Okai
Ondoki Charles Torach
Zitoni Kayonga TristanTani
Project Assistants :
Godelive Kasangati Kabena
Okot Paul Peter
A Sculptural Installation
By Nakitende Sheila
Curators: Helga Rainer
2-4 April ,9am -6pm 2022
Chemistry Lab Makerere University, Kampala
ABAANA BA KINTU
Sheila Nakitende’s work is historically and emotionally textured in materiality, colour and form. In Abaana ba Kintu, she invites viewers to engage with heritage, colonization, patriarchy, and the multiple facets of changing environments. The artwork asks what architecture, construction, texture, form, and place can be, advancing the relationship with nature and ancestors.
Engaging with traditional technology and using her knowledge of hand paper crafting, Nakitende embarks on a creative journey to craft a new material from Lubogo (barkcloth). Lubugo is not only thought to be the most ancient textile made by humanity but also possesses a significant cultural value for peoples across central and eastern Africa. The practice of Kukomaga (barkcloth making) is passed through generations along patriarchal lines. Originally perceived as a marker for social and cultural traditions and resistance, the female artist, Nakitende, brings the practice into a contemporary space of artistic work.
The artwork speaks to the complexity of life, from within our gendered familial relations and from within our patriarchal societal structures but also from the external environment. Abaana ba Kintu embodies the ecofeminists’ Mary Mellor’s observation that ‘society has created itself against nature. Nakitende, in the words of Mellor is ultimately asking ‘hu(man)ity…to confront its own materiality.
Within the artwork there is an acknowledgment of human health, the place of settlement and finally the connection to spirituality and religion – ‘life itself. In the process of transformation and artistic commentary on health, place and religion there is also a reinvention. Through such remaking, Nakitende supports the creation of new memory, history and culture. Playing with time and by embedding images within the ancient material she is ‘working backwards but forwards. As an instillation that interacts with its site-specificity, it is both concealing (the artwork) and revealing (the light) thereby disrupting the space but inviting us to also participate in the dialogue.
Focusing on the process of transformation and informed by ancestors, the installation offers insights into the reactivation of hand-crafted techniques like paper making, weaving and stitching. The installation of Abaana ba Kintu is a metaphorical representation of the artist’s late grandfather’s home. Whilst the installation is a reinterpretation of the traditional structures, the process of transforming the ‘walls’ speaks to the fact that such constructions are slowly disappearing from rural landscapes, to be replaced by the more ‘modern’ brick house, complete with glass windows and tiled roofs.
Nakitende encourages us to consider materials that were once so readily available like cane and reeds that are no longer available to create structures. Speaking to a dynamic between culture and the environment, Nakitende’s representation of materiality and heritage asks us to consider what lies ahead. The reference to ancestors is present beyond the manifestation of her grandfather’s house, invoked by the sticks as different characters, individuals even. The care taken to transform, whilst carefully preserving the threads that pass through the generations, is a process that brings both healing and connection.
Experiencing the work invites the audience to be a part of the biography of Lubogo and to become a maker of the space. Here, we may participate in the process and become a witness to the past that is reconvened in the present but shows us what the future could be.
Mellor M., 2000, “Feminism and Environmental Ethics: A Materialist Perspective”, Ethics and the Environment, 5(1), 107–123.
Communicated to the curator from the artist, Nakitende Sheila, at her studio, 1st March 2022
Communicated to the curator from the artist, Nakitende Sheila, at her studio, 7th December 2021
Even with the awareness of being mortal, humans have proven to be an uncontrollable life force. In our journey to advance, humans are a distinctive virus. Moving and occupying spaces where they are able to initiate or encounter new dynamics, humans can either adapt (become part of), create (make) or destroy (break). Through this process, they mutate through multiplication and transformation and sometimes division.
The Luganda proverb “Abaana ba Kintu tebaggwaawo” loosely translated “The Descendants of Kintu (legendary ancestor of the Baganda) will never die out calls us to reflect on how humankind is constantly renewed. The “ABAANA BA KINTU” sculptural installation seeks to explore this.
Our lives are intertwined just like fibers. Through relationships, interactions, emotional expressions of hugs, kisses, handshakes amidst shared spaces like a home/house, we spontaneously establish or embody new physical and spiritual patterns. As humans we are therefore regenerated which is also the nature of the sustainable Mutuba tree (Ficus Natalensis) from which bark cloth is harvested. When bark cloth fiber is harvested, the tree is not cut down, it regenerates.
Selecting my late grandfather’s home as a metaphorical space to “host” humans for their purpose, the bark cloth’s material transformation is used as a tool to facilitate conversation. A home / house is a space of livelihood, gathering, ideas, occurrences, transformations and therein lies cultural evolution.
Centering on formation through physical patterns and behavior, the artwork is an investigation of the realities of cultural evolution. The interlacing of traditional materials and techniques tackles man’s life transformation with materiality as a cultural identity and preservation tool.
The basis on variation, heredity and selection addresses the patterns of life through altering habits, reactions, mutations, genetics of humans which are currently fast widespread and rapid in our society. An example is advanced technology whose good is innovation but is slowly dehumanizing our existence and relationship with the environment. The world is not only about our immediate environment but the globe. Whilst we encounter exchange of resources, knowledge, intermarriages, yet again amongst us are disagreement, wars and migration which only serve to further demonstrate man’s survival behavior.
Alongside natural fibers such as raffia, and banana fiber, I am using bark cloth paper which I make from bark cloth harvested from the natal fig tree. Transforming its structure and nature into new abstract organic forms through twisting, stitching, repair through patch work and burning while merging it with other fibers for possible recombination and patterns is characteristic of viruses and therefore a performance of the human relationship with nature/ environment and cultural advancement. It is also an incarnation of human survival, meditation, and healing amidst these fast unpredictable, transforming times.
Sheila Nakitende (b 1983, Uganda) is a multi-disciplinary artist whose practice focuses on womanhood experiences that include nurturing, preserving our aesthetics, material culture and methodological history while addressing current influences, challenges and transformations. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Fine Art and Design from Makerere University in 2005. She experimented with painting before exploring installation and performance art.
Her artistic experience ranges from concept development, product and graphics design to gallery curatorial practice, coordinating arts projects, participating in local and international art workshops, residencies and exhibitions.
She participated in the Kampala Art Biennale and Kampala Art Auction 2016. She is a recipient of the Parent residency grant 2017 New York and internationally exhibited in Kenya, Congo, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Belgium, Austria and USA.
Dr Helga Rainer has over 20 years of international and environmental development experience. She has extensive experience in tropical forest and species conservation as a practitioner, donor and researcher. She has worked across many spaces and scales from women in informal settlements in Dhaka, Bangladesh to informing world leaders in Jeju, South Korea. She has conceived and edited a book series on non-human apes and always seeks to leverage multiple perspectives and disciplines through a social and environmental justice lens. Further building her trans-disciplinary practice, Abaana ba Kintu is Helga’s inaugural curatorial project where she merges her passion for contemporary art with her concern for the environment.
Artist: Sheila Nakitende
Project Director: Nantume Violet
Exhibition Curator: Dr. Helga Rainer
Exhibition Manager: Mugerwa Nicholas
Photographer: Martin Kharumwa
Gideon Bbaale Erick
UNDER GROUND Contemporary Art Ltd.
BORDERLANDS Art Ltd.
Makerere University, Chemistry Department
Vodo Art Society
Goethe Institute, Kampala
“Abaana ba Kintu…” (The Children of Kintu…)
An installation by Nakitende Sheila
Project by UNDER GROUND Contemporary Art
Projected time: Nov 2021 – Feb 2022
Artist: Nakitende Sheila
Project Curator: Nantume Violet
Exhibition Curator: Helga Rainer
In this installation, Nakitende Sheila is working with barkcloth (Lubugo), which is not only thought to be the most ancient textile made by humanity but also possesses a significant cultural value among the Baganda people of Central Uganda.
This important cultural significance and being a prerequisite of weaving led to the artisanal production process of bark cloth being declared a “Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage” by UNESCO in 2005 and added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 2008.
Among the Baganda it was customary for every homestead to have at least one Mutuba tree, (Ficus natalensis or the natal fig), from which bark fleeces may be harvested. But the benefits didn’t stop at making bio-fabric; in African traditional medicine, all parts of the tree are applied against a variety of ailments; its fruits are edible and the leaves are used for animal fodder. The trees can be used as live fences, providing shade for crops and with their high water retaining roots and regenerative soil quality, Mutuba trees support sustainable farming.
Okukomaga refers to the practice of crafting this permanently renewable bark from Mutuba without having to fell the fig tree. To allow the bark to regenerate, the exposed trunk is carefully wrapped with banana fibre. Mutuba trees may be harvested annually for over 40 years and are capable of producing up to 200 square metres of cloth.
This 600 year-old practice of Lubugo-making requires the sodden strips of the fibrous inner bark to be hand-beaten which gradually expands its size. This practice of Kukomaga is passed down through the generations and Nakitende Sheila learned that her grandfather, who passed away when she was five, had crafted barkcloth as a hobby.
Informed by her ancestors, the need to engage with traditional technology and using her knowledge of hand paper crafting, Nakitende began her creative and evolutionary journey to create a new material from this ancient practice, creating unique hand-made ‘barkcloth paper’.
“Abaana ba Kintu…” is an artistic intervention by Nakitende Sheila. The artist has innovated, through techniques of deconstruction and reconstruction of the fibre to create a new purpose for barkcloth. Originally perceived as a marker for social and cultural traditions (and resistance), Nakitende has advanced the cloth into a new material, informing her contemporary artistic practice.
Through this process of transformation, Nakitende explores healing, nurturing and meditation whilst reactivating hand-crafting techniques like paper making, weaving and stitching. This slow handmade process further reconnects with deep values of community-making practices, juxtaposed against the isolating, fast-paced lives of rapid urbanization, which is shifting living and shared spaces (architectural placements), in the social fabric of Ugandan society. Ultimately, Nakitende is commenting on the human condition and its environment through an interrogation of material culture.
“Abaana ba Kintu…” will evoke critical discussions around the artist’s processes of expression through various presentations including installations, film and written text. There will be talks and participatory programs, as well as an exhibition curated by Helga Rainer, which will be held in Kampala/Uganda, Kumasi/Ghana and Berlin/Germany. The project will culminate in a published art book, with commissioned texts from academic and art writers, sharing artwork images, processes and installation/exhibition iterations.
EROTICISM AND INTIMACY: FACES, PLACES AND PATHS
Group Exhibition 8th Mar – 9th Apr 2016
Women’s Day Art Exhibition
Eroticism is defined as sexual desire or excitement, while intimacy is a close familiarity or friendship. These two elements are central to the inquiry of this project. How we conceal or reveal sexual desire is related to the close familiarity with our bodies, or with other people. In addition, the paths or ways to intimacy are wide ranging: from romance literature and sexual therapy to perfumes, music and alcohol. Places of intimacy are equally innumerable: hotels, trains, airports, homes, bedrooms, bathrooms and outdoor spaces.
Yet while the ways and paths, as well as spaces and places of intimacy and sexual desire are innumerable, often times both women and men are incapable of exploring these options due to the expectations of Uganda’s traditional cultures and modern society. The clash between eroticism and society limit the expression of sexual desire, and limit the exploration of intimacy. As a result more adventurous paths and spaces of eroticism and intimacy are relegated to the wings, as both women and men choose to follow the obvious status quo.
The rights of women and girls advocated in the 2015 International Women’s Day celebrations in Uganda are primarily focussed on reducing maternal mortality amongst teenage mothers, and on girl child education. According to the UNFPA, the maternal health has overall improved over the past 20 years, including reduced rates of maternal deaths in pregnancy and childbirth, as well as antenatal care. “In fact, we have reduced maternal mortality by nearly 50 percent,” said UNFPA’s director, who registered much success on the front of education, “More girls are going to school, with primary enrolment rates approaching 90 percent.”
These successes of reforms in the rights of women and young girls in Uganda obscure the fact that women’s bodies are not fully liberated. While the focus is on development, and on the practical matters arising in the progress of Ugandan society, physiological conditions, psychological states, and personal liberties remain in the shadows, as sexual rights are swept under the carpet, and considered to be a taboo issue in the public arena.
The exhibition, Eroticism and Intimacy: Faces, Places, and Paths, aims at bringing the taboo subject of intimacy and sexual desire to the forefront as a means to highlighting the place of sexual rights, and personal liberties in the women’s day forum. While we speak of girl child education, we should also speak about the personal liberties of women and men. By bringing to centre stage a subject constantly relegated to the wings, the project aims at influencing the public debate surrounding women during the historical International Women’s Day in 2016.
To influence public opinion through art;
To influence the Women’s Day discourse;
To share information and education;
To advocate for expression sexual desire;
Alex Kwizera (Uganda)
Ange Swana (DRC)
Clavers Odhiambo (Kenya)
David Ndungu Maina
Denis Mubiru (Uganda)
Esther Mbabazi (Uganda)
Gillian Stacey Abe (Uganda)
Habeeb Mukasa (Uganda)
O’neal Mujumbura (Uganda)
Ibrahim Nsubuga (Uganda)
Moses Izabiriza (Rwanda)
Moses Nyawanda (Kenya)
Raymond Abel Bamutiire (Uganda)
Ronex Ahimbisibwe (Uganda)
Sarah Nakiganda (Uganda)
Sheila Nakitende (Uganda)
Wasswa James (Uganda)
Winifrid Luena (Tanzania)
Curated by Nantume Violet, Genza Peter and Serubiri Moses
Body Pedagogy | A Theory Workshop on the Body and Sexuality | 1st March – 5th March 2016
"My body is a dictatorship."
Mildred Apenyo, founder of FitClique
East Africa, and in particular Uganda, has come to represent the preeminent abuse of both gender and sexuality across Africa, and internationally, through various public law enforcement, and mobilized violent acts. Various and recent reports show the inhuman approach to women and queer bodies. Gender and sexuality has become a political as much as cultural debate. Yet, what is gender and sexuality? How has gender and sexuality been perceived in relation to these bodies?
Designed as an interdisciplinary think tank, the workshop is a discursive and pedagogical environment for academics, writers, critics, artists, activists, and thought leaders explore the body's relation to Gender and Sexuality. Crucial to the workshop is the generation and contribution of thinking and ideas on the subject while attempting to apply it to the politics and culture of East Africa. The workshop is also a space for critical analysis of several key texts and authors both local and international.
The workshop is staged in 5 days leading up to the exhibition 'Eroticism and Intimacy: Spaces, Places, Paths' curated by Violet Nantume, Peter Genza and Serubiri Moses. In the context of International Women's Day, the workshop will invite 15 participants to engage in theory of bodies exploring its connection to reality debating and knowledge sharing via presentations, readings and group discussions.
Excerpt from 'Undoing Gender' - Judith Butler
Queer Subjectivities - Felix Guattari
States of Desire - bell hooks and Isaac Julien
Ana Mendieta: "Pain of Cuba, Body I Am" - Kaira M. Cabañas
trans-bodies in/of war(s): cisprivilege and contemporary security strategy - Laura J. Shepherd and Laura Sjoberg
Excerpt from 'Time and Perversion: Essays on the Politics of Bodies' - Elizabeth Grosz Gender/Racial Realness: Theorizing the Gender System in Ballroom Culture - Marlon M. Bailey
Ugandan Monologues - Monica Arac
The Body: Gender and the Politics of Representation - Mgcineni 'Pro' Sobopha
Body Talk and Thoughts on Power - Frieda Ekotto
Homage to my hips - Lucille Clifton
Selling Hot Pussy - bell hooks
The Bodies that were Not Ours - Coco Fusco
Heart of Darkness
A Solo exhibition by Christian Tundula
24th April -27th May 2016
No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey. The life-sensation of any given epoch of one’s existence That which makes its truth, its meaning Its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream-alone…”
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
Heart of Darkness is a photography exhibition by Christian Tundula, a Belgian artist of Congolese extraction. He reconstructed a series of photographic images by digitally editing them or manually cutting and patching them together like a collage. Christian did this in order to embrace his own phantom, which is the manifestation of his dreams, memories, and experiences. His works are therefore an autographical journey into the abyss of his personal psychic space clothed by his flesh, a heart of darkness, wherein his phantom strays between abstraction and reality, receding beyond the realm of photojournalism.
For Christian, this phantom is his deceased brother. The two were raised by their single mother. Unlike the artist who decided to stay at home, his brother took the rough path of a smuggler to earn money on the streets. He transported produce by a boat in order to avoid taxes. This is how people made a decent profit from their products back then.
But as fate would have it, one day he was sucked into the mighty Congo River and drowned. His body sank to the bottom of the muddy river and stayed down for weeks until it floated back to the surface, bloated and disfigured by methane, hydrogen sulfide, and carbon dioxide produced by bacteria in the gut and chest cavity. As a young kid and sibling to the dead man, the artist was called by police to identify the corpse because the brother wore his clothes. There was no way else to identify the mangled body.
Thus, Christian Tundula's works are a requiem tribute to his brother. They are a constant reminder of the paths we take, and how our decisions today inevitably map out our very different futures.
As we enter into Christian's images, they awaken our empathy as we come to the realization that we all have our own phantoms; our own oppressed past resident in our hearts of darkness. It is up to each of us to decide what to do with it. For the artist, the act of confronting and embracing his phantom leads him to a redemption of self from the past, enabling him to visualize the future and beyond, and to take control of his own life despite the situation he was born into. In essence, Christian's images are a rooter’s song, beckoning us to embrace our own phantoms and envision a bright future beyond our individual hearts of darkness.
Christian Tundula Biography
Tundula is a visual artist born at Kinshasa - DRC, on August 30th 1978. He completed the Academy of Fine Art as well as an additional degree at the University of Decorative Arts in Strasbourg, France. He currently works in Kampala. He has participated in an artistic residencie in Joucas France with the Jean Paul Blachere Foundation in 2005, Pan African photographic Encounters in Johannesburg with the Market Photo in 2005 and the 50th Anniversary of Africa Reimagination Creative Hub (ARCH) organized by AU in Addis Abeba in 2014.
“I have always had great interest in the urban city life of Africa in this day and age and that has been my constant inspiration and passion to see improvement, creativity and real independency on my continent for my people.” In the last years he has focused my photography work around the urban streets of different mega cities in Central Africa, where he has discovered and been part of the journey of the many kids living on the streets, thus a series “Street Journey”
He has travelled many capitals around the world to exhibit my work internationally such as:
2014: 3rd Edition of AFF / Addis Foto Festival / Ethiopia
2012 : 10th Dak’art Biennale / Sénégal
2011 : 3rd Photoquai / Musée Quai Branly Paris / France
2010 : Focus10 Basel / Swiss/ Off of Art Bassel
2007 : Projet YAMBI Contemporary Art Botanique Brussels / Belgium
Projet YAMBI Contemporary Art in Monos Gallery Liège, Antwerpen / Belgium
2006 : KVS Brussels/Belgium
2006 : Hope international development Agency in Washington DC/USA
2005 : French Art Center Kinshasa/RDC
And has been published in:
AFF/ Addis Foto catalogue 2014
Catalogue Dak’art 2012
Transit Magazine 2012
Catalogue Photoquai 2011
Congo Eza Catalogue Photographique (Africalia) 2008
Book, Les arts du congo: D'hier nos jours by Roger Pierre Turine
Joucas 2005 (Fondation Jean Paul Blachere) Marseille/France
Pan African Photo Encounter Book /Market photo (Johannesburg/RSA 2004)
Wasswa August Donald – Waswad
Solo Exhibition, 3rd Sept – 20th Dec 2016
We are forced to be transformed; change is inevitable; transformation is a part of the process of change…
Zikunta, Installation – Wood, Bark Cloth and Sisal
Inspiration for Zikunta
My work is inspired by nature, life, human beings and their environments and behavior, and how change affects them in a given period of time. I fuse reality and fiction to tell stories.
In all these, there is the constant movement of people and their belongings from place to place. All this relates to "ZIKUNTA", the strong movement of wind.
Zikunta interrogates the effects of the movement of people. It focuses in particular on the psycho-socio consequences of migration in light of the issues surrounding rural-urban migration. It examines the current global refugee crises. Zikunta also touches on multiculturalism or the meeting and coexistence of diverse cultures in the areas of religion and thought, and how these two communicate with each other.
I experiment with various materials in my artworks, blending the two styles of semi-abstract and realism. These keep challenging me towards growth as an artist. I work in different types of African hardwood (Mugavu and Mvule) from trees that have become damaged. I also use waste materials like leather cutoffs which I turn to a new purpose, "trash" into "treasure" I look for the hidden beauty that lies in the transformation of these materials, giving them a new life as works of art. This has the effect of holding up a mirror to the viewer, forcing him or her to question the true meaning of 'value'.
I am currently working on a new project entitled 'T.M.W.A.' in which I explore, observe and interpret the habitation of humans in undesirable environments where both fear and desire for change arise. It is the ability of humans to adapt to these restrictions that intrigued my mind. This ignited the debate to re-examine who we really are and hence the new initialism T.M.W.A., which is an acronym for The Most Weird Animal. T.W.M.A gave birth to Zikunta.
Emisindde gya ba Kamyuffu, Sculpture - Mugavu and Ebony Wood
Arrangement and Display
Basing on T.M.W.A, I hope to spark debate on the question of what forms you, them, me and us. I am also challenging myself to use alternative spaces to present a new body of work and to see how the audience reacts to it. I want to convey the idea of time becoming secondary in particular situations or crises, such as when people have to flee their homes and become refugees in a foreign land.
In using a public space as part of my work, I am experimenting on the best way to communicate visually. The exhibition is a collection of drawings, photography and installations using found objects and familiar materials. Viewers will see beer fermenting canoe, luggage simulated from backcloth, and leather off cuts. These are objects that my viewers will easily identity and connect with.
Some of the artwork is arranged in a specific order and some placed randomly to work with the entire exhibition space. Using the parking space at Under Ground is symbolic of the shelters or alternative spaces created in times of crisis, such as displaced people's camps. In such times, individuals are forced to abandon familiar environments irrespective of time. Time becomes a secondary concept, hence the reason for Zikunta opening at Midnight.
Relationship between the Artwork and Viewers
Live models are a part of my installation and sculptures. I am using sound to accompany the installation and present them as one. My intention is to agitate the audience to get them to question and share their experiences. I am interested in knowing how they will react to this new body of work in light of the techniques and concepts I have used.
Born in 1984, Wasswa Donald August (aka Waswad) is a Ugandan contemporary and multidisciplinary artist who trained at Kyambogo University. He is the proprietor of Art Punch Studio and currently works with three other artists from different backgrounds. Waswad believes that each art discipline greatly contributes to the other and collaborating with different artists affords him a synergetic, highly creative work environment.
Waswad's whimsical paintings and dreamscapes are largely inspired by nature, music, humanity, architecture and fantasy, giving birth to a utopian dream world called Elephania. With this he creates a dichotomy between the actual world we live in and the harmoniously playful world of Elephania in which anyone would wish to be.
PROFESSOR PILKINGTON NSIBAMBI SENGENDO
A Cultural Tribute (1942-2015)
A Collaborative Project between UNDER GROUND and Nommo Gallery
9th-23rd Dec 2016
Prof. Pilkington Sengendo: The search for identity and meaning.
1995 was a year of reckoning for African Art. For the first time, African art was presented to the West free from the biases that had bedeviled the Magicien de la Terre exhibition a few years earlier. And for Uganda, 1995 was particularly significant because, for the first time the region of East Africa which rarely featured in discussions on African art was brought into the lime light. The stereotype that there is no serious art in East Africa was being addressed head on. The works selected for Africa 95 exhibition may have been solely contributed by the Makerere Art Gallery, but they provided an idea of the visual terrain of the country over the years. Spanning a period from the early 60s, they revealed that artists were attentive to the social, cultural and political challenges of their time and their individual and collective interpretation of the events was clear.
Prof. Pilkington Sengendo was invited to speak at the Africa 95 symposium, a symposium that had been organised as part of the Africa 95 exhibition. He was invited, I imagine, because
- he was at the time the only scholar in the country who wrote eloquently about contemporary art in Uganda,
- he was at the time the head of the Makerere School of Fine Art, the institution that supplied the exhibits, and,
- he was familiar with the work that had been collected for the symposium
In any case, both his undergraduate and post graduate work was at the time part of the Makerere Art Gallery collection, although it was not included in the Africa 95 exhibition. Prof. Sengendo was both a sculptor and painter. I remember him giving us a demonstration on modeling in cement in the early 80s. Masikini is his iconic terracotta sculpture—its heavy and sluggish features accentuate its sense of pity and helplessness.
I like this sculpture because of its humor but more importantly because it helps me to understand Sengendo as an artist for whom observation drawing was secondary. Although mastery of technique was a very important consideration in the School’s curriculum in the 60s, I realize that the system was open enough to permit Sengendo to subordinate and sacrifice it at the altar of individual expression. Cecil Todd (60s) and Francis Musango (80s) were Sengendo’s trusted professors. The two shared one thing in common; a contempt for traditional African art as potentially potent to inspire and spur creativity for a modern African artist. Musango would in fact laugh at any suggestion that traditional African art could carry any academic merit.
In the Africa 95 Symposium, Sengendo was unequivocal in his articulation that Ugandan artists are unencumbered by the burden of the cultural past. His counterparts from West Africa vehemently disagreed with that position. Whatever it was, whether out of date or extant, following colonialism intervention--be it weaving, pottery, storytelling, drama etc, that is indeed your inheritance, they told him. The non-figurative art that abounded in East Africa was not in any way inferior to the spectacular masks and masquerades from West Africa. Sengendo’s admiration for the flamboyant and scholarly Todd had blinded him, albeit temporarily, from appreciating Trowell’s precepts—for indeed this was what Trowell advocated for—to be attentive to and creatively use traditions inherited from the past as building blocks for an African modernism to occur. Sengendo needed a reassurance especially from internationally acclaimed artists of the continent, that to be an African artist of substance, one needed to acknowledge the past with empathy and respect. The Africa 95 symposium changed Sengendo and his art for ever thereafter. One can understand the quick u-turn given that he was closely linked to the Buganda monarchy which had only been restored a couple of years earlier.
The strategy of building surfaces with found objects that he had started in his Masters’ studio research in the early 80s was revisited with verve. After the 1981-86 civil war, figural motifs that expressed morbid subjects were no longer relevant. The stable political and economic environment allowed artists to explore formal content and Sengendo was at its fore front. He was supported by Prof. Nnaggenda also a colleague--an experimental artist whom Prof. Sidney Kasfir writes about in 1969 in the prestigious American Journal of African Art. Consistent and persistent in recuperating found material, Nnaggenda became Sengendo’s natural ally in his crusade to renew past traditions along modern lines. Sengendo incorporated material culture such as bark cloth mats, baskets, beads etc on his canvases. His subject matter too changed from the Kyaddondo Landscape that typified him in the 80s to overt and covert content taken from aspects of Ganda culture. When the King (Kabaka) of Buganda Ronnie Mutebi got married in 2008, he made one of his best known paintings the King and the Queen as a celebration of that historical wedding.
In the King and the Queen, jute cloth and cotton cloth are stitched together and unified by smudgy paint. Stitching is an important aspect of bark cloth making. Most if not all bark cloth would require frequent patching up. The materials the painter would have picked from a rubbish heap have an organic tactile quality. The juxtaposition of varying textures creates a strong visual impression. They are themselves objects of visual interest in their individual ways as they are in their corporate alliance in the context of the overall appearance of the painting. The high saturation of red and browns in the King and Queen is a deliberate link to the idea of bark cloth.
Prof. Sengendo also investigated proverbs, myths and legends, and these formed a major part of his PhD by studio research co-supervised by Prof. Nnaggenda, which he completed in 2013.
A gregarious man who radiated energy and passion Prof. Sengendo was fun to be with. He was imaginative in his teaching and humorous, which made him inspirational to his students. His interaction with Richard Kabiito one of his protégés was particularly profitable and mutually beneficial. Kabiito completed his masters in painting in 1998. Like his professor, Kabiito infused his canvases with elements of material culture. As individual independent units, mats, baskets, etc, have always been treated as crafts. I have personally always had a problem contending with the distinction between art and crafts. As far as I know, they both have the same goal—enabling us to see the world from a fresh perspective. What we learn however is that both Sengendo and Kabiito have dismembered and re-membered the crafts (material culture) on canvas integrating it with oil paint. In so doing, they have forged a reciprocal relationship between the so called low and high art and together, they have contributed to the search for modern Ugandan art.
It is reasonable to argue that by 2010, Sengendo was standing clear of the Todd legacy that as he explains in his PhD document, “Todd’s legacy not only launched the students work into mainstream art, it made it intellectually, politically conscious. However under his legacy, I missed out on the art of indigenous cultural identity and there was neither a deliberate pedagogical policy nor evidence about knowledge of African cultural art of identity by the expatriate instructors”. It is this legacy that had led him to believe that the past was remotely relevant in bringing about a Ugandan modernism.
His last paintings strongly engage with his personal relationship with both tangible and intangible Ganda culture. They are rooted in local circumstances and a powerful manifestation of his knowledge of the local and international. The paintings in this exhibition are a testimony to a man who firmly believed in the power of art—not just any art, but that art, the art of meaning, which he strived to make all his life, to transform.
Text by Prof. George W. Kyeyune
George W. Kyeyune is a painter, sculptor, art Historian and senior lecturer at Makerere University.
Prof. Pilkington Nsibambi Sengendo
Born in 1942 to Simeoni and Eva Nsibambi, Sengendo grew up in Mengo and went to Makerere College School. He received a diploma in fine art in 1966. He once served as the head teacher of East Kololo Primary School in Kampala. He later obtained a master’s degree in painting. He started lecturing at Makerere University in 1983. From 1989-1995, Prof Sengendo served as Dean of the Margret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Arts. He helped in the execution of Kabaka Ronald Mutebi’s monument in Bulange and the Centenary Park monument which now graces the Ugandan currency. He was a member of the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) board. Prof Sengendo obtained his PhD in Fine Art from Makerere University in 2013.
“Nze Sengendo ndi Muganda”GgweAni?: From Sengendo's art to the celebration of our identities”
It is more than a year since Professor Pilkington Nsibambi Sengendo died in October 2015. This exhibition gives us a wonderful occasion to remember him as a professor, an artist, a leader, a mentor and a father. I have no doubt that the artworks in this show [re]present all these things. But I want to speak to one other attribute which underlines this exhibition and is important to all of us as we remember him, namely that: Sengendo yali musajja muganda.
N’olwekyo wadde ng’oluzungu nduwandiikidde ebbanga ggwanvu, era n’ebintu ebisinga obungi byennaakawandiika mu bulamu bwange biri mu lungereza, olwaleero ngenda kuwandiika mu nnimi bbiri nga nteeka essiira ku lulimi lwange, olulimi lwa Sengendo, olulimi oLuganda. Kino nkikoze lwa nsonga bbiri: Esooka, nfunye omukisa guno; ka ngukozese. Ey’okubiri, Pulofeesa Sengendo yali musajja Muganda atatya kwatula ekyo kyali ng’akozesa ebifaananyi bye ebyesigamizibbwa ku bwaKabaka bwa Buganda, obuwangwa bw’aBaganda n’olulimi oLuganda. Bwe ntunuulira ebifaananyi byeyaleka mu nsi nneeyongera okusanyukira oBuganda, okuba oMuganda, okussa ekitiibwa mu lulimi lwange oLuganda n’okwongera okuluyiga.
Kino kikulu nnyo gyendi lwansonga eno: Mu myaka gy’ensanvu waabangawo enkola eyagobererwanga mu masomero mangi naddala agali mu byalo nga muno mw’otwalidde n’eryo mwe nnasomera pulayimale (primary school). Kyabanga kya tteeka okwogera oluzungu ku ssomero. Ebibonerezo ebikakali byaweebwanga oyo yenna ayakwatibwangako ettaano ng’ayogera olulimi oLuganda. Abasomesa baakozesanga bayizi bannaffe nga bambega. Bano bebaaloopanga buli ayogedde oLuganda buli lunaku. Tewaabangawo kuwoza. Emiggo gyavuganga; amagumba g’ensolo gayambikwanga mu bulago bw’abo abaakwatibwanga nga boogera oLuganda.Nga 12/10/2016 nnafuna okwennyamira omu ku bayizi bange bensomesa e Makerere University, nga naye musomesa, bwe yantegeeza nti enkola eno ekyagenda mu maaso kinnawadda era naye agikozesa.
Buzibu ki obuli mu nkola eno? Nze nga bwendaba, abasomesa bayinza okuba balina ekigendererwa eky’okulaba nti abayizi baabwe bayita ebigezo ebibaweebwa mu lulimi oLungereza. Kino kya ttendo. Naye kya nnaku nti enkola eno ereetera abayizi okukyawa ennimi zaabwe enzaaliranwa eziteekebwa mu ttuluba eryawamu eriyitibwa“vanakyula” (vernacular). Abasomesa balaga bayizi nti lwo olungereza ssi “vanakyula” era lwa waggulu nnyo buli muyizi alina okulumanya ssinakindi okulusinza. Wano wewava emijiji gy’abavubuka abakyawa amawanga n’obuwangwa bwabwe nga batiitiibya obw’abagwira naddala obwo obuwandiikiddwa mululimi oLungereza.
Bruno Sserunkuuma musomesa e Makerere era musomesa wange. Mu lukiiko olumu mwennali naye yateesa nti tusaanye okusomesa mu nnimi zaffe tukomye okuyigiriza abayizi mululimi oLungereza lwokka. Nzikirizaganya naye. Naye ate waliwo kyetulina okwetegereza obulungi nga tetunnaba kuteeka kiteeso kya Sserunkuua mu nkola, era kyekino: abayizi nabo bayinza okubanga baakyusibwa dda obwongo; kati basuubira nti obuyigirize kitegeeza kwegaana buwangwa na kwogera Lungereza.
Nnina ekyokulabirako: Nga 24/10/2016 nnayogerako eri abayizi b’e Makerere ab’omwaka ogw’okubiri. Nnali mbasomesa essomo ly’okunoonyereza (research methods). Nnayagala okulaga abayizi bano nti n’abayigirize balina amawanga n’obuwangwa. Tuyinza okukozesa amawanga gaffe (n’ennimi) okwongera ku bumanyirivu bwetulina era tekiswaza omuntu okuba oMuganda, oMunyankore, oMukiga, oMucholi oba oMulala. Wano we nnasabira aBaganda bayimirireko katono bannaabwe babalabe. Wadde nga mu kibiina mwalimu aBaganda bangi tebaasobola kuyimirira. Nnasaba aBanyankore bayimirire naye nabo tebaayimirira. Omuwala omu yekka yeyavaayo n’antegeeza nti Mujapadhola era yenyumiriza nnyo mu ggwanga lye. Nnamwebaza nnyo olw’ekikolwa ekyo.
George Hearn nzaalwa ye Missouri mu United States of America. Yayimba oluyimba I am What I am (1983) olwa wandiikibwa Jerry Herman. Oluyimba luno lukwata kubintu ebisukka mu kimu. Naye nze ndwagala olw’amaanyi Hearn gaakozesa ng’akkaatiriza ensonga ye nti: “I am what I am, I shout how proud I am, what I am” (ekivvuunulwa nti: ndi ekyo kyendi, kandekaanire waggulu engeri gyenenyumiriza olw’okuba ndi ekyo kyendi). Oluyimba luno lwekuusa kw’ekyo omuwala oMujapadhola kye yakola. Obutaba nga banne, yayatula ekyo kyali. Naye ate era lumpa eky’okuyiga ekirara kyensanga mu kifaananyi kya Sengendo kyeyatuuma Abaana n'Abazzukulu Omuziro Ffumbe(2005).
Abaana n'Abazzukulu Omuziro Ffumbe ky’ekimu ku bifaananyi Sengendo byeyasiiga ng’ali ku misomo gye egya ddiguli eya PhD. Yakozesa sitayiro ya modanizimu (modernism) gye yayigira kubasomesa be Cecil Todd, Jonathan Kingdon, Gregory Maloba n’abalala. Naye kyawukana nnyo ku bifaananyi ebirala bye yakola mu myaka gy’enkaaga ng’asoma ddipulooma ye mu kuwunda ebifaananyi. Okugeza, kyawukana ku Masikini (1962) gwe yabumba okulaga obuyinike bw’abo abateesobola (Fig 1). Masikini alaga omuntu alikumiggo olw’obulema. Talina magulu. Talabika nga alina amaaso yadde ng’alina ebituli wegandibadde. Ayasamizza akamwa ke ng’afuba okwekulula atambule. Bino byonna bilaga nti Sengendo yeesigama ku mulamwa gw’obulemu kumubiri gw’omuntu. Obutaba nga Masikini, Abaana n'Abazzukulu Omuziro Ffumbe kiri ku mulamwa gw’ensibuko: ensibuko ya Sengendo, ensibuko y’abaana be, ensibuko y’abazzukulu be. Alaga nti ye, nga Sengendo, musajja Muganda, alina omuziro, abaana be, n’abazzukulu bonna beddira omuziro gumu: Ffumbe.
Naye ate amakulu g’Abaana n’Ababazzukulu Omuziro Ffumbe magazi tegakoma ku nju ya Sengendo yokka. Mu kusiiga ekifaananyi kino, Sengendo alabika alina ekibuuzo kyeyali addamu ekikwata ku ggwa nange, era kyekino: ggw’ani?
Kino ekibuuzo kikwata ku nsibuko ya buli muntu. Mungeri eno ekifaananyi omugenzi kyeyatuuma Abaana n'Abazzukulu Omuziro Ffumbe kitandika okukwatagana n’ebimu ku bifaananyi bye yasiiga ng’akola ddiguli ye ey’okubiri mu gy’ekinaana. Okugeza, wadde nga yali ku mulamwa gwa nkula y’Essaza ly’eKyaddondo, ebifaananyi byeyasiiga mu kiseera ekyo biraga nti Sengendo yali atandise okwatula nti musajja Muganda ng’akozesa ebifaananyi ebisiige ng’olulimi. Kuno kwe kwatula kwaddingana lunye mu kifaananyi kye kye yayita Abeffumbe b’eBakka (2004) mweyayita okujaganya olw’obumu obuli mu kika kye eky’Effumbe ekisibuka mu mutala Bakka.
Ba jjajja ffe abaalugera baalutuusa nti: “agali awamu ge galuma ennyama.” Olugero luno lutegeeza nti obumu kintu kikulu nnyo mu nkolagana n’enkulaakulana y’abantu. N’olwekyo, nga Sengendo bw’alaga mukifaananyi kye Abeffumbe e’Bakka, obumu bwa nkizo nnyo nnyini mu bika by’aBaganda. Buganda kweyimiridde; bwe buzimbiddwaako obwa Kabaka bwa Buganda nga bulina amaanyi, enkulaakulana, n’essanyu Sengendo by’atendereza ng’ayita mu bifaananyi bye bino: Abagoma ba Kabaka, Mwogeze nnyo Engoma, n’eya Ttimba n’Engalabi (2006-2008), Kabaka ng’Alina Obuyinza n’Ekitiibwa (2006-2008), Lubaale Kabaka Wanga I, Weebale Kutaasa Omwezi n’Enjuba (2004-2007) ne Royal Wedding a Tribute to Mutebi (1999-2004).
Mungeri eno ebifaananyi bya Sengendo ebyesigamizibbwa ku bika bya Baganda binzijukiza ennyimba zino: Ebika olwa Christopher Ssebadduka (RIP), Ebika by’Abaganda olwa Philly Bongoley Lutaaya (RIP) n’okusingira ddala Ebika by’aBaganda olwa Fredo Ft James B. Ennyimba zino zonna ziraga omugaso gw’ebika mu kuzimba obumu nga guno gwe musingi Buganda kwetambulira. Nga Hearn mu luyimba lwe I am What I am, Sengendo ayatula n’amaanyi ngayita mu bifaananyi bye nti: ye ali ekyo ky’ali, musajja Muganda eyeddira eFfumbe.
Okutuukiriza kino yakozeza ennimi ssatu:
- olulimioluwandiike (text)
- olulimiolusiige (painting)
- olulimi olusiige-mu-buwandiike (painting-as-text)
Wadde nga yali ategeera bulungi olulimi olungereza, era ng’alwogera bulungi n’okuluwandiika, mu bifaananyi bye Sengendo yakozesa olulimi oLuganda n’olungereza. Kano kaali kakodyo akaamuwa enkizo okusobola okwogera eggwanga n’obuwangwa bwe ng’ayita mu bifaananyi bye awatali kuvvuunula; ng’ayatula awatali kwe komomma.
N’olwekyo, kituufu ebifaananyi ebiri mu mwoleso guno byogera ku Sengendo n’abenju ye. Naye ate birina amakulu mangi eri buli omu aze mu mwoleso guno n’abo bonna abalibiraba na ddala abo abakulidde ku mulembe ogusomesebwa okukyawa oBuganda, oLuganda n’okuba oMuganda. Sengendo ayogera eri buli omu mu ddoboozi ery’omwanguka nti: leekanira waggulu; weenyumirize mwekyo kyoli; nze Sengendo ndi Muganda; abaana bange n’abazzukulu omuziro Ffumbe. Omwoleso guno tugutwale nga mukulu. Gubeere kyakulabirako era entandikwa ya buli omu okwenyumiriza mu ekyo kyali ng’ayatula ekika kye n’eggwanga lye.
Nze kamwa koogera kankozese omukisa guno njatule nga ssirina kwe komomma kwonna nti: Nze Angelo Kakande, ndi musajja Muganda. Ndi mutabani wa Paulo Kyanku. Ndi muzzukulu wa Gabulyeri Ttakalirya. Ndi muzzukulu wa Njala Egobye. Nva mu lunyiriri lwa Nnakatalanga Nkoola. Nsibuka mu Mutuba gwa Kalungi e Busere. Nva mu ssiga lya Kasule e Buwembo. Neddira Ngeye; akabbiro Kkunguvvu. Kasujja kumutala wali e Busujja ye mukulu w'ekika kyange. Omubala: Tatuula asuulumba busuulumbi.
Abaffe, ye ggwe, ggw’ani? Weddira ki? Era oli wa ggwanga ki?
Wummula mirembe Pulofeesa Sengendo!
Agundeegunde Maaso Moogi!
Text by Angelo Kakande
Angelo Kakande is a Senior Lecturer at Makerere University and Senior Research Associate at Rhodes University. He is a Fellow of the American Council for Learned Societies and Fellow of the Next Generation of African Academics II. He is an artist (ceramist and painter), art historian (with an interest in contemporary African art) and a lawyer (with an interest in human rights law). firstname.lastname@example.org
I thank Amanda Tumusiime, Margaret Nagawa and Franco Owendogambi who read my drafts and gave me feedback. Special thanks go to the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Makerere University and the National Research Foundation Chair in Geopolitics and the Arts of Africa (NRF and DST) at Rhodes University (Grahamstown, South Africa) for their support.
TOGETHER WE CAN INSTALLATION
Nantume Violet and Hashimoto Kei
Women and Empowerment in Uganda
According to Uganda Bureau of Statistics, provisional results of the recently conducted National Population and Housing census indicate that Uganda’s population has grown from 24, 227,297 million in 2002, up to 34,856,813 million in 2014. The report covers population size, distribution, sex and residence up to the sub-county level. It indicated that females constitute the biggest percentage of the total population of Uganda, with (51% compared to males at 49%). Translated into figures, this means that there are 16,935,456 million males in Uganda compared to 17,921,357 million females.
Out of the more than 15.5 million national labor force (14-64 years), 269, 000 are jobless and over 1.4 million are underemployed. The report further indicates that, “three out of every five unemployed persons were women, with the urban areas (70 per cent) depicting a higher proportion compared to the rural areas (42 per cent)”.
“The number of hours spent by working women in non-economic activities (26 hours per week) was almost four times that spent by men (7 hours). Findings further indicate that women outnumber men in both self-employment and individuals working as contributing family workers.”
This notwithstanding, the statics of unemployed women in urban areas in Uganda cannot be ignored. A number of initiatives like human rights activism, sensitization and peer initiatives to either educate amongst selves or share skills has positively impacted women. They have been able to move past many societal limitations to realize their full potential and how they can be part of a productive labor force.
“Together We Can”
The process of creating this tapestry involves a group of women working together and each contributing their ideas to the process. Nabukenya works with these women to stitch together pieces of fabric off-cuts from a tailoring area in Kiyembe lane located in the Kampala Central business district. Nabukenya has embarked on a crusade to empower disadvantaged women—stay-home mothers, those with scanty education and those without the means to earn a meaningful income. Nabukenya imparts her tailoring skills to these women, a campaign she believes will contribute to the ongoing processes of their emancipation.
Thus this installation explores the different avenues through which these can be inspired and motivated to consider the possibilities that can be available to them beyond the domestic responsibilities of nurture and beyond the limitations of a meager education. With the right tools and skills marginalized women are exposed to limitless opportunities in society.
Every delicate stitch and piece of cloth sewn in this tapestry is a testament to the awesome possibilities that can emerge from the hands and fingers of these women from the suburb of Buziga in Kampala, Uganda in East Africa. The tapestry is cognizant of the voices of all the women who get by on less than 3,000 Uganda shillings a day through their collective efforts Nabukenya’s studio. They aim to complete a number of techniques in each surfacing project, with emphasis placed on the quality of the conversations generated during their labors, and the incredible power of synergy that is women working together.
Every success there-from is proof that there is life beyond cheap soap operas, the popular “endobeso” radio program and “agataliiko nfuufu” Bukedde TV new, and, needless to mention, life beyond crazed radio gospel preachers. Every patch in this tapestry is testimony to the valid dreams of real people who are reaching up and out beyond themselves to make match confidently and inexorably on the inevitable path towards self reliance and empowerment.
POP – RAP – HIP
Michale Matthew Kayiwa –Matt Kayem
Solo Exhibition, 22nd July – 31 August 2016
Curated by Kei Hashimoto
POP-RAP-HIP is an exhibition by Ugandan contemporary artist, Matt Kayem. The artist has created clay sculptures and a series of paintings on jeans he has worn and nolonger uses. He uses these to express his perception of Ugandan society in general. On one hand, Kayem’s work is based on his own stories about everyday life and on the other, it is a critique of the lifestyle of power, sex, fame and wealth among some Ugandans. These are the common stereotypes the general public usually have of someone who has “made it” in life and to which many aspire. But this is normally a far cry from reality and instead breeds envy and fights among those who are trying hard to be “hip” and make it to the top.
Photo by Erau Timothy
Kayem is never afraid to openly make known his radical views about life and society in general. Paradoxically, this very society tends to hide its radical views on matters like sex, politics, gender, etc, behind closed doors. This is why, for example, many people buy the Red Pepper, an outrageous local tabloid, and read it while hiding it behind a more decent daily like The Monitor. The Red Pepper is notorious for its graphic sexual content.
Kayem is brutally honest about his ambitions, desires, and dreams. He strives to be rich, to be powerful, and to be a famous person in society. But instead of conforming himself to the stereotypes of high society (rich, powerful, famous), the artist questions their "conventions and norms" and innocently rebels against these very norms. He does this by introducing contrary, populist notions to his artworks. This is because Kayem understands and believes that the freedom of expression in society should never be controlled by the expectations and/or conventions of a powerful minority., whether in art, in speech, or in matters of faith.
This rebelliousness against the status quo is what informs his art practice. For example, he paints on worn jeans and not on canvas. Instead of painting academically, he opts for a street, graphite technique. Rather than be decorative, he instead singes his paintings using hot charcoal. By applying these unconventional techniques to his art practice, he creates this raw aesthetic which he terms “rough beauty”. This inevitably questions the conventions of what Ugandan contemporary art is expected to look like and it pushes out its aesthetic boundaries.
In addition, he strategically markets himself in a very different way from his fellow artists so as to try and get more attention. By raising the curiosity of society in the process, he seeks to popularize art and introduce its possibilities to the general public. His ultimate aim is to open up these possibilities not only to those who are privileged of means and status, but to everyone else including underprivileged youths struggling to succeed in their art careers. He does this in the hope that they will perhaps emulate an ambitious dreamer like Matt Kayem himself.
Photography works by Nankoma Sandra
22nd June to 22nd July 2017
Curated by Kei Hashimoto
Born 1988, SANDY SOUL (also known as Nankoma Sandra) is a Ugandan multidisciplinary artist with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Fine Art from Uganda Christian University in Mukono, Uganda. Apart from being an artist, Sandy Soul is a gifted singer, poet and songwriter. She co-founded Afroman Spice in 2015, an all-female theatre company that produces and acts plays on social change. Sandy Soul practices all her crafts concurrently and believes in marrying them because each one informs the others.
She works with different media such as sound, video, dance, illustrations and paint to create harmonious presentations that express what she defines as “Conversations in my Mind”.
Her practice is inspired by the positive energy she experiences from her immediate surroundings, from her community and the situations that society is afraid to address. As such, her work easily come across as “opinionated”.
Colorism has long existed from the 18th century during slavery. The slave owners always favoured the lighter skinned slaves with a perception that the darker skinned slaves were not human. The lighter skinned slaves worked less or were not subjected to hard labor and harsh treatment. This elevated mentally in our ancestor's minds that some opted to intermarry with the assumption to get better breeds from the lighter skinned people that were considered 'beautiful '. Due to this history of segregation women of color were influenced to compare themselves to lighter skinned women.
“Omuwala omumyuufu ng’ettungulu” a very common saying from our ancestors complimenting a light skinned girl who was normally regarded beautiful because of her skin complexion. Currently a dark skinned girl will often receive comments such as “you are too beautiful for a dark skinned girl”, “your genitals look like roasted beef”,” why don’t you bleach, you will look better?”
Media has played a role in discrimination through magazines having mostly light skinned women considered as beautiful to showcase music videos and Television adverts. These subtly pass on the message of light complexion being more beautiful. Women continue to try and fit into this image of perfection which often comes at a cost. Women continue to harm themselves due to low self-esteem. The pressure to be perfect begins weighing down on young women so much that it consumes every aspect of their lives. Countless girls set out to change everything about themselves through skin bleaching and beyond. Why pursue a superficial image that is ultimately unattainable? Why conform to society’s distorted standards? Why choose to give in and believe that you are not good enough?” why endanger the one thing that makes you beautiful, MELANIN? Women in Uganda indulge in bleaching today because they’ve been brainwashed to think beauty is being light skinned! This destroys the pigment responsible for skin, hair and Iris color, a pigment that is 99% responsible for protecting our skin from direct ultra violet rays from the sun, one that is connected to the nervous system! Violation of Melanin in other words is a direct slow death sentence. Melanin should be preserved and protected for it is one’s identity.
Nankoma Sandra a self-taught artist photographer explores the scars that society subjects to darker skinned girls through the hash comments and subliminal messages of what they think about them through the media. She also exhausts the beauty of existence through a black and white exhibition. She believes everything looks beautiful in black and white where by in the world it’s either black or white but whatever way everything is still beautiful. She uses mixed media of paint on bodies, texts and illustrations to portray emotions of the subject.
Cast a Light on Prejudice
Curated by Kei Hashimoto and Nantume Violet
11th Dec 2015 – 24th Jan 2016
“Cast a Light on Prejudice” is a composite exhibition of photo portraits in progress. On one hand, the exhibition explores and disseminates the subject of Albinism in East Africa, and on the other, it focuses on the lives and times of Nubian Women living in Kibera in Kenya. Featuring works by award-winning photographer Papa Shabani, the exhibition casts a spot-light on the social issues surrounding these minority groups as seen through the lens of his camera.
The exhibition is not a mere dais to showcase monumental photos. It beckons the viewer to engage in dialogue with it and seek to be schooled about topics that remain a taboo in our society. Papa’s portraits call into question our awareness of East Africa’s albinos and the Nubians of Kibera, force us to confront their dark shadows, and aspire to open our eyes to their invisible reality beyond the twin veils of our preconceptions and prejudices.
Papa’s work with albinos is a journey that started from his major work at university where he wrote a thesis on the role of photography in therapy. His works narrate his spiritual experiences with albinos through the stories they have shared with him over the years, their fears, their joys, and the burden of their condition. Papa enlightens us with the simple recognition that our daily lives are no different from theirs and our collective experiences are not dissimilar. He wants us to see albinos without prejudice, without bias, that they are as human as anybody else and deserve to be treated no less.
Likewise, Papa captures the story of the indefatigable spirit of the Nubians, a story of defiance and hope in the face of insurmountable odds. Nubian women are universal queens with an elegant sense of dress and fashion, and their culinary skills are out of this world. The aura of their very being breezes through the endless corridors of Kibera, corridors that seem to lead to nowhere. Even here, where their presence is unrecognized and their citizenry is labeled as “other”, they stand tall and refuse to be put down.
Papa Shabani is a graduate of the Margaret Trowel School of Industrial and Fine Arts at Makerere University where he majored in photography. Since his graduation in 2014, he has steadily honed his craft to international acclaim. He is a two-time award of the Uganda Press Photo Awards (2nd runner-up in the portrait category 2014 and Honorable Mention Daily Life in 2013).
Papa has been an integral part of various profiled art events here in Uganda and beyond. He participated in the Kampala Contemporary Art Festival KLA ART ’014/; he has been an artist-in-residence at both Kuona Trust Art Centre in Nairobi-Kenya in April 2015 and 32O|East/Ugandan Arts Trust on a project initiated by “History in Progress Uganda” from May-Aug 2014; from Sept-Dec 2014 he worked with Afrika Arts Kollective to produce a documentary of the profiles of the participating artists. Papa is currently on a self programmed residence/internship with Viva Con Agua de Sankt Pauli, an organization based in Hamburg, Germany, whose aim is to improve drinking water supply in developing countries.
Papa’s photography explores the boundary between art and documentary. His art practice aims to peel off the layers of the viewers’ preconceptions that often camouflage his subjects, so that he can document them in their unabridged form. The creation of his art goes through a three-stage metamorphosis of research, communication and relationship.
Through committed, painstaking research, he uncovers what lies underneath a layman’s perception of the issues surrounding his subjects. He then dialogues with the subjects to assimilate their character, their very essence. Finally by building an intimate relationship with his subjects, he is able to capture his subjects’ integrity through the lens, that inner beauty which is a fusion of their dignity and vulnerability.
ALBINOS IN EAST AFRICA
Albinos are people who are born with albinism, a congenital disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes due to absence or defect of tyrosinase, a copper-containing enzyme involved in the production of melanin.
People with albinism in East Africa face profound social stigma and isolation due to the negative myths that surround their condition. In addition, most children with albinism have early signs of skin cancer by their teen years and only 2% of people with albinism live to reach their 40th birthday. As a result, a lack of understanding about albinism can certainly be fatal (http://www.asante-mariamu.org/albinism-awareness-in-east-africa/). Because of the social misconception or myths of their presence, they live in isolation in order to protect themselves.
In East Africa, Tanzania is the country worst hit. Albinism is particularly prevalent in Tanzania with one in 1,400 affected, according to a 2006 BioMed Central (BMC) Public Health report. This compares with one in 20,000 in Western countries. Some researchers believe the higher rate is a result of inbreeding.
When an albino baby is born, many fathers assume that their wives must have had affairs with white men or that their family was cursed. As a result, many albino babies are abandoned and end up being raised by only their mothers. According to the Albino Association of Kenya, 90% of albinos in that country are raised by single mothers. Due to this, families with albino children tend to have low incomes and they are inclined to be less educated. In addition to all the odds stacked against them, some people believe that albinism is contagious, ignorantly unaware that the condition is inherited. They instead avoid albinos and treat them as outcasts.
Thus starts the tragic tale of children with albinism. Abandoned and shunned at birth but sought after and hunted like game animals when they grow up. All this is because of the value of their body parts in the murky world of witchcraft and ritualism. According to one albino campaigner, more than 70 albinos were killed in Tanzania between 2012 and 2014. Shockingly, there have been only 10 convictions for albino murders for the corresponding period.
The stories emanating from rural Tanzania are as gruesome as they are graphic. Tales abound of organized gangs of lawless men armed with spears, pangas and machetes hunting down defenseless albinos and hacking off their limbs. The gangs nonchalantly leave their victims to bleed to death with no remorse whatsoever. Albino body parts are used in ritual magic and cost a fortune. Parents have been known to sell their own albino children for profit.
Reuters reports that witch doctors will pay as much as $75,000 for a full set of albino body parts, according to a Red Cross report, using them to make spells believed to bring good luck, love and wealth. (www.reuters.com/article/us-eastafrica-albinism-idUSKBN0M61I520150310#xyFzsDUGtjEuXoi4.99). A single limb can be worth up to four times Tanzania’s average annual income of about $1,000. Witch doctors tie bits of albino body parts on their arms and legs as charms and talismans. Albino hair is sewn into fishing nets to bring good luck. With such a hefty bounty on their heads, treated and hunted down like animals by their fellow humans, the future of the albino in East Africa could well be described as endangered.
NUBIANS IN KIBERA, KENYA
Nubians were Sudanese soldiers and their families who were incorporated into the British Army and brought to Kenya around the 1900s. Many Nubians carried British colonial passports and had birth certificates that stated their nationality as British but were intentionally categorized as ‘Detribalized natives’ by the colonial government and not a tribe native to Kenya. This denied them the right to claim land on “Native Reserves”.
In 1917, the British allocated a land for the Sudanese askaris and their dependents. The land was located outside of what would become the city of Nairobi. The Nubians named the land, Kibra, or “forest”. In mid 20th century, only 3000 people, mostly Nubians lived in Kibra. But subsequently, hundreds of thousands of rural migrants flooded into Nairobi seeking jobs and Kibra was where they were encouraged to settle. Eventually the Nubian village of Kibra came to be known as Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa.
Since Kenya’s independence in 1964, Kibera has been contested land. In 1971, a bill requiring the government to demarcate and title land parcels in Kibera was passed but it was never implemented. Nubian claims to title deeds for land in Kibera have never been recognized. Meanwhile, the thousands of people living in Kibera, including the Nubian community, continue to be considered as squatters even though they settled on the land generations ago.
These Nubians have been one of Kenya’s most invisible and under-represented communities economically, politically and socially. Most of them weren’t recognized as citizens of Kenya after independence. Up until the most recent census conducted in mid-2009 the Nubian community was not a formally recognized tribe of Kenya. They were considered as ‘Other Kenyans’, or simply ‘Other’.