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ARTS: Mistress of sculpture celebrates 25 years

Kampala, Uganda | DOMINIC MUWANGUZI | Renowned Ugandan sculptor, Dr. Lillian Mary Nabulime of Makerere School of Fine Art, is celebrating 25 years of art making with an amazing display at Afriart on 7th gallery located in Industrial Area, Seventh Street, on the The Studios Building.

The exhibition features highlights of a journey that started 25 years ago when, as a young art student at Makerere University in Kampala, Nabulime started carving against the traditional stereotype that women cannot be sculptors. She has since become an inspiration to many young women whom she teaches at the same university. Her message is that they too can be successful in a patriarchal society and art field.

As has become her badge, Nubulime is showcasing works carved out of battered piece of wood or root stumps that she salvages from imminent decay and waste. These she integrates into objects of art, with particular interest of preserving their natural form. Her technique is recycling and conservation of nature in art with a narrative.

Nabulime can be creative, cheeky and introspective at the same. While interrogating the subject of womanhood, she underlies it with a delicate topic of HIV- AIDs. With awareness that public sex talk is still regarded as taboo, she tactfully blends it with other subjects that nonetheless stimulate debate, questions and answers. Her interpretation is objective and blameless.

It is evident that Nabulime’s art raises dialogue on critical and sometimes delicate issues of society, but her technical innovation; figuratively working with hardwood and synthetic media, makes such a venture palpable to the audience.

In one of her previous exhibits `Dreams and Consequences’, the artist adopted the Musizi tree that was growing next to the sculpture studio, into her art. She used the trunks to sculpt large hardwood sculptures on womanhood; specifically the lifestyle of female university students. It can be argued also, that the hardwood adopted in her art like Mahogany, Musizi, Muvule is a metaphor for women strength and natural endowment. This is evident in how she titles her sculptures like bold, Courage and flamboyant.

To create an authentic conversation on technical innovation, she fuses her wooden sculptures with metallic / aluminum plates that she skillfully embellishes on the body of the sculpture. She argues that the aluminum- sometimes -copper plates are deployed to keep the wood intact. Nonetheless, on many occasions the synthetic medium has been used figuratively to demonstrate particular body expressions and emphasise certain bodily shapes. In this case, the aesthetic benefits stand out. Her recurring motifs are non-traditional; red acrylics on lips of the feminine sculptures, and stylish mini-dresses that embody the modern notion of women empowerment.

Additionally, her sculptures are four dimensional instead of the traditional three dimensional. This is a significant departure from the sculptures she was making 25 years ago as a student artist at Makerere. Then her sculptures were still; a quintessential characteristic of figurines. The current format of her artwork connotes a departure and highlights her tendency to innovate and experiment.

Miniatures in terracotta medium are also a regular feature in her exhibits. Often presented in series form: in groups of twos or threes, the clay works suggest a rather theatrical expression similar to characters in stage drama. Built with a notion of simplicity in mind, the artwork is often a figurative showcase of the mundane lifestyle of young women, for example gossipers. The various facial expressions worn by these caricatures make it easier for their audience consumption.

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