The artists in the exhibition Allegiance To Thee showcase a knack to create art that transcends the ordinary
Kampala, Uganda | DOMINIC MUWANGUZI | If artists are availed an open platform and adequate time they can produce art that transcends the ordinary. The ongoing undertaking by notable private galleries on the Kampala contemporary art scene is a testament to this reality. A group exhibition that opened recently at AMasaka Art gallery in Bukoto on the outskirts of Kampala, the capital of Uganda reveals the knack of young artists to produce art that is experimental and innovative. The artists are best suited to delve into such experimental processes, because of the nature of the gallery that provides more than a space to produce and exhibit art. The emphasis on making art under the ideal of pushing the boundaries of traditional art making prompts the artists to create art that provides deeper reflections on social- cultural experiences. Therefore, the artists are afforded an opportunity to make art that is not only intimate to their wellbeing, but touches the emotions of the viewer through the deployment of familiar imagery in the artworks.
The multi media assemblages by Christine Nyatho will immediately capture the attention of the viewer. The artist works with a host of material including barkcloth, synthetic canvas and acrylics to provide a strong visual language for her art. Barkcloth is an organic fabric familiar to many communities in Uganda, especially in central Uganda where it was used as a garment. The technique of juxtaposing an organic fabric with synthetic canvas is intended to create a contrast between the past and present. Incidentally, in Nyatho’s life the two worlds co- exist within the context of how her adult life- the present- is impacted by her childhood- the past. The artist draws on her childhood memories to produce this series of work. She deploys the moon symbol in the artworks as a recurrent motif that evokes her childhood experiences. As a child, she religiously followed the horoscope which is interrelated with the concept of the moon.
The moon is a generally a representation of the supernatural world and many communities across the world interpret it as a symbol of the supernatural or afterlife. Nyatho’s relationship with the moon is traceable in her belief that it can influence what happens to us on a day to day basis. As such, she paints white parallel lines on each of the artworks to suggest the light beams that are shed by the celestial body. In Lets Play, she reminiscences her childhood experiences where she would play under the moon. The idea of playing under the moon was symbolic to freedom: being able to do what one wants without any form of restriction. Nyatho and her siblings would only be allowed to get out of the house in the evening once the moon appeared.
The serie Dog Love, Parenthood and Lost in Love by Nyabir yo reflect the idea of experimentation. The artist combines elements of fashion design including texture, line, shape and colour with elements of fine art like proportionality to create life-size assemblages that suggest conversations on recycling and the human condition. In the artworks the artist works with off cuts of different materials including denim, lace and cotton fabric. She also works with barkcloth as a metaphor to her skin colour. Barkcloth may also evoke the idea of the past and present in her art. Nabir yo’s inspiration to work with such material inform of stitching is a consequence of her childhood experiences. As a child, the artist used to watch her grandmother stitch together different fabrics and she would make good outfits out of them. It is through such personal experience that the artist adopts the traditional form of fashion design to create a visual narrative on the marriage between the traditional and the contemporary.
Allegiance To Thee, is a figurative allusion to the deep commitment and loyalty the young artists have to contribute positively to the local art scene. Such contribution, is evident in the quality of art they display which offers deeper reflections on the benefit of creating art that overrides the traditional norms of art making. As witnessed in this exhibit, through undertaking experimental processes in art, artists are able to dialogue with the self. The result of such introspective approach is the production of art that is original and authentic to the taste of the public. Similarly, such approach will overturn the generally held perception Africa does not make art.
Artists in the Exhibition include Christine Nyatho, Carson Buka, Frank Ssuna, Florence Nantenza, Kato BC, Nabir yo and Martin Jjunju. The exhibition Allegiance To Thee is showing at ArtDuka by AMasaka gallery, located along Bukoto-Kasasi Road, plot 1878 Bukoto. The show is open to the public.