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BIG artists show off


Artists who are arguably some of the big names in Uganda are showcasing their recent artworks at Afriart Gallery in Kamwokya, a suburb of Kampala city. Each was selected for their contribution to the fast-growing art industry, writes Dominic Muwanguzi.

Dr. Kizito Maria Kasule, Henry Mzili Mujunga, Dr. Amanda Tumusiime, and Sanna Gateja are some of the artists exhibiting.

Mzili’s painting `My things’ dominates the reception area.

It is a large painting in pastels depicting a young woman seated next to a sideboard that possesses her neatly folded clothes and on top of the closet are her well-arranged lotions. Hanging in the backing is her lingerie. For many viewers, the painting could be telling the story of the way of life of an ideal young woman attempting to keep organised. The depiction can be viewed as contrary to how many young women keep their rooms, especially in the student hostels of many tertiary institutions. Many are shabby; with clothes and food spread all over – and possibly a sign of disorganised minds.

The painting reveals how far Mzili has evolved as an artist. The influence of traditional art practices remains but his recent paintings show a shift from politically-charged message evident in previous exhibitions like `Head’ to a more social-oriented message. Mzili is inspired by the indigenous expressionism movement; a practice where contemporary artists seek inspiration from their cultures to create local relevance for their art.

Dr. Kizito Maria Kasule’s abstract series of paintings of the male and female genitalia titled Birth and Conception 1& 2 stimulate dialogue on the subject of human life and its origin.  Kizito Maria Kasule, a devout catholic, seems to suggest in the painting series that he respects the concept of human life and its origin through conception and thus, he abhors the idea of abortion as his Christian faith asserts.  As an emphasis to this religious belief, the artist’s palette of orange symbolizes hope for the future: a situation where advocates for abortion will learn to respect human life and its beauty.

Makerere don Amanda Tumusiime evokes dialogue on the subject of feminism and women emancipation. Tumusiime a renowned woman activist and one who draws attention to the subject through her well-researched work, displays a series of work tilted `Pearl’ in a monochrome palette. The choice of subject and palette is intended to invoke attention to the subject that is often swept under the carpet in a male dominated society. Her work also revisits the role played by women artists in the contemporary arts today. Does their work raise debate on gender and sexuality issues?

Sanna Gateja has a large installation woven from paper beads, bark cloth, sisal, and cowrie shells. Together, they create a beautiful tapestry of traditional and contemporary material on the same canvas. The installation is symbolic of the experimentation that many contemporary sculptors promote in their work.

Titled `Youth As One’, it measures 175x196cm with three abstract human figures in dedication to the theme “Youth are the leaders of today”. It raises discussion on how traditional art practices can be included in the contemporary arts scene.  Combining those two aspects is a technique Gateja often uses to make a case for of preserving the African traditional cultural heritage.

BiG exhibition is intended to provide inspiration for the young generation of artists and art collectors.  It is also a rehearsal as the art community prepares for the 2nd Kampala Art Biennale due in September. The exhibition is being seen as a perfect platform for contemplating the present and future of visual arts in Uganda.

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