Thursday , April 18 2019
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Ants invade artist

Reawaken sketches of refugees and other migrants

| DOMINIC MUWANGUZI | Ants are destructive, undesirable creatures. They make anthills that can be a nuisance; especially if they occur near a home, in the compound. Artists like to use them as analogies for invasion.

Now consider this: Gilbert Musinguzi has not one but several anthills in his compound, he is an artist, and he is staging an exhibition inspired by anthills, and the tile of the exhibition is, well, `Invasion’!

That is explosive, isn’t it? That the artist is using ants, anthills, and their invasion of new territories as an allusion to migrants and refuges who seek and inhabit new spaces changes nothing. For Musinguzi, the invaders bring change; good or bad. They bring a new identity to the communities and space.

Ants move in masses like the refuges, have complex communication networks, communal construction working styles. And just like ants have an anthill above ground and a colony below ground, refugees and migrants bring covert change; in hierarchies of leadership for example. They bring new queens, kings, workers and soldiers.

Musinguzi’s muse is the migrant Kasokoso community in the Mbuya area of eastern Kampala. Mostly Acholis from Northern Uganda, they work collectively like ants, turning a huge valley into habitable, cheap earth and wood homes. The structures are irregular, shanty, and spread out over the vast area like the anthills in Musinguzi’s compound. They are unwanted and the government is plotting ways to destroy them. They see them as encroachers on government land.

The Kasokoso community is suspicious of outsiders. The complex communication networks spreads news of “government spies” and land thieves. The community’s soldiers swarm and quiz visitors in the same way that the ants crowd and attack invaders. They appear weak but are territorial, fearless and bold.

Musinguzi’s fusion of the trait of ants with that of migrants is clever and backed by extensive research on ants and migrants. No wonder his next project; a work already in progress, is titled `Another Community’.

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