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ARTS: When love dares

Five masters launch exhibition to change attitudes

By Dominic Muwanguzi

An exhibition titled `A love That Dares’ that opened at The Studios art space, Afriart, on 7th Street, features Sanaa Gateja, Theresa Musoke, Joseph Ntensibe, Mira Nair (Mississippi Masala) and Zuleika Kingdon.

Their artworks explore love in troubled and hate-filled times around the world through painting, installation, sculpture, and film. There is a marriage between traditional and non-traditional genres.

`The Rising Sun’ by Ntensibe is the centerpiece painting. It is large oil canvas of monochromic images including broken glass against a glowing yellow background.

Margaret Nagawa, the curator of the exhibition says when she first saw the `The Rising Sun’, it spoke volumes about the hatred and troubled times in the world.

“The diamond- like shattered glass, acting like a cracked curtain, exposes a new territory of promise,” she says, “This is how the world should be; that everyone shares love for one another and we stop looking at ourselves as belonging to particular class or colour skin.”

Ntensibe again creates space within his artwork for the audience to see this moral in another work, `Waves’. It was also inspired by love.

Ntensibe apparently loves swimming but cannot swim anymore because it is not good for him. So he instead paints blue luminous tides that engulf the public in a sea of serenity.

Meanwhile Sanaa Gateja presents rich bead and bark-cloth tapestries done is his experimental style of marrying the traditional art and contemporary practices. The idea is to present harmony among humans be they migrants, poor or rich, or with different spiritual beliefs.

Another piece by him, `Paths’, explores migration directly. The long tapestry of bark-cloth is stitched together with organic fibre- sisal- and colourful cylinder shaped paper beads to suggest free movement of people from one destination to another.

Our forefather moved with ease from one community to another, the artist says, but the trend is being reversed because of artificial borders, political and social divisions, hatred, and isolationism.

Zuleika Kingdon’s 1995 archive documentary, `Visions and Dreams’ delves into the anarchical political past of Uganda; dating from post- colonial times to the early 1980s before the NRM took power.

It explores the impact these turbulent political and economic times had on the local art scene. Many of the works produced at the time responded to the political status quo and works by Dr. Pilkington Ssengendo (RIP), Francis Xavier Nagenda, Godffrey Banadda among others that are highlighted in the film laced with poetry.

“If you were an artist at the time and you did not paint a human skull, you were not considered an artist,” recounts Banadda in the film documentary.

Theresa Musoke’s wildlife wood-cut prints focus on environmental conservation. The buffalo, hippopotamus and elephants hunted by man either for food or ivory are painted in black and white, their direct and calm stare filled with wild humility. They challenge humanity to act responsibly when dealing with nature.

Together, the works in `A love That Dares’ are a visual narrative similar exhibitions tackling the same subject like `The progress of Love’ in USA and Nigeria and the itinerary `Kabbo Ka Muwala’ (The Girls Basket). They call for change in behavior towards what we perceive as impossibilities and norms of post- modern society.  In this case, war mongering, migration, racial, environmental and despotic problems.

The exhibition opened on March 5 and will run until May 6 at the Studios Gallery on 7th Street Industrial Area opposite The Bread & Cake Shop.

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