When an artist’s style is not to have style
The new exhibition by Daudi Karungi and his creative partner, Henry Mzili Mujunga dubbed “DaudiMzili: Dichotomy of Creativity” is one that will leave many artists and art lovers excited. The excitement comes from the depth of creativity and experimentation the two artists employ on canvas.
As indigenous expressionists - a term coined to describe the curious blend of sophistication coupled with naivety- they grapple with the question of how ethnicity (one of Africa’s biggest problems according to renowned Prof. Ali Mazrui) is absorbed into contemporary art in a globalized culture that seeks to de-ethicise art.
Mzili deploys non- figurative tactile innuendos of Ganda spiritualism on bark cloth. He blends his own experiments in shrines and in his studio space with photographs of ordinary sceneries in Kampala captured by photo journalists.
Karungi, meanwhile, uses semi abstract portraits of everyday people juxtaposing them with his abstract and expressive bold free- range strokes, almost in caricature form giving his work strong visual presence.
Their works show that both artists seem to subscribe to the idea of working without a specific style, while at the same time asserting the philosophy of thinking within the box. According to them, “style” is very conformist and restricts creativity and experimentation.
“Style in not a word in my vocabulary as an artist. I love to create and experiment all the time and style does not allow this”, Mzili once told me in an interview.
To say that both artists are talented would be an understatement because they have transcended the norm of how art is presented in Uganda with almost no creativity involved, and literally no vocal theme often explored.
More so, this exhibit of over thirty paintings is political in its presentation. It seeks to ask questions about our political, social and spiritual wellbeing. For Mzili, this element is almost inevitable as he loves to call himself as a spiritual mentor, writer and artist.
His contemporaries describe himself as a conceptual artist.
Thus when they respond to the social and political aspects of their communities through their work, the artists are not doing it merely as artists but as art activists who are purely obsessed with the fundamental role of using art as a medium of finding solutions to the problems that confound them both as artists and normal human beings.
Katrin Peters Klaphake, the curator of Makerere University gallery where the exhibition has been going on for now two weeks says “their work is a manifestation of painterly involvement and continuity in artistic exploration.”
She adds that students and artists who visit the exhibition will greatly benefit from the duo’s experience and dedication.
The exhibition has been used to mark celebrations of 75 years of the Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Art, Makerere.
The exhibition will be open until Sept.15 at the Makerere University Art Gallery.