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ARTS: Comic cases of identity

How to know an artist from their art

Kampala, Uganda DOMINIC MUWANGUZI | Want to know an artist – personality,character, and identity? Do not very far from their art. Take Roshani Madina Silibani. Her paintings reflect her double ancestry. The artist was born and raised in Uganda, but is of Indian descent.

In her paintings, the youthful artist paints the peacock as a recurring figure that suggests her fashion design profession and background. The peacock, a largely tropical bird, is known for its flowery design of feathers and pride. Roshani often presents it against a background of rich hues of yellow, blue and green. These give her pictures the warm feel and vibrancy of the tropics.

But she also often renders them surrealistically and with familiar stylistic designs of calligraphy-like motifs typical of her oriental culture. They conjure her Indian ancestry.

You can see in the pictures, an artist delicately trying to balance the two cultures on canvas culminating into a symbiotic fusion of two places. This mutual friendship is obvious today in aspects like intermarriage, trade and business, and education. Roshani’s art also revels in environmental and wildlife conservation, manifested in her peacock bird motifs as symbols of other species.

Similarly, Paul Ssendagire’s comical persona is mirrored in his caricature prints. According to the artist’s statement, he is the type who loves to talk a lot, and wants to be heard even when he’s in a group of friends. To this end, his stories like his figures on canvas are often exaggerated with a comic aura. Such artistic parody, peppers his subjects of social commentary like corruption, women empowerment and rural-urban migration. Sometimes he may tackle a mundane subject like hairdressing and create a comic tweak to it.

His technique is potent enough to enlist the attention of the audience and his comical figures notwithstanding, he suggests the idea of an artist who finds a lot of meaning in what society generally describes as trivial. The notion of working from dark to light- a familiar trait amongst printmakers- asserts his ability to turn an ordinary subject into something exciting.

Although human beings are mostly known to have divergent interests, artists on the other hand tend to share common horizons. This is typical of their artistic sensibilities that involve mutual technical approach to subject matter and theme, and experimentation. In light of the Common Horizon exhibition, the featured artists in this exhibit are jointly inspired by the idea of self-expression. The result is a hybrid of artworks that interrogate the subject of personal identity, social commentary and technical dexterity.

Other exhibiting artists include Mayanja Weazher and Tindi Ronnie Chris.

The exhibition is now showing at the Makerere Art gallery

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