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ARTS: Child scrap collectors inspire artist

Kampala, Uganda | DOMINIC MUWANGUZI | Scraps of metal, plastics, rubber and more are everywhere in Kampala; especially in low income areas where dumping many people cram into small spaces, leaving no room for proper garbage disposal.

These are the treasure troves of scrap dealers who rummage through the heaps waste in search of either valuable items to sell to scrap merchants or collecting tonnes of wastes to be traded to recycling factories.

Many are youngsters or even children. Their work has become important to the community since they are a form of unconventional cleaners of the environment. The scrapers are the inspiration for David Kigozi’s recent solo exhibit at Umoja Art Gallery.

He paints groaning under the weight of sacks of scrap on their backs or heads, some haggling over pay with garbage merchants and others braving the bitter weather.

The irony in the paintings is difficult to miss; these are children who have fast transformed into adults because of poverty.

They are haggling with traders instead of going to school. The slum dwellers around the city understand this pain easily. Kigozi’s work is social commentary on the social ills of post-modern society where everyday survival is more emphasized than anything else; including education.

Children have always interested Kigozi. He previously painted them playing outdoors or performing household chores.

This time he is piqued by the emerging trend of robbing these young people of their innocence. Yet the artist veils his concern with his signature stroke of bright hues as if to suggest that after all, it is not bad to let the children work or as a symbol of optimism: with a collective effort, we can change the destiny of these young people.

In the text to exhibit the artist writes: “Society has shifted to a “Use and throw” culture. Chances are if the right information is disseminated, and the public sensitised further, solid waste can be turned into income via recycling, subsequently there will be a reduction in the waste that ends up in the drainage or at various collection points or at the landfills.”

Kigozi’s art creates awareness on the problem of garbage dumping and validates the notion of how artists continue to fortify their relation with the public through dealing with everyday subjects in their work.

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Kigozi’s exhibit is titled `Scrapers’ exhibit and is showing now at Umoja Art Gallery in Kamwokya in Kampala, opposite Kobil Petrol Station

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