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ARTS: Scenes of contrast

Romantic Lamu and easy Kisenyi

Kampala, Uganda| DOMINIC MUWANGUZI |Lamu, a beautiful idyllic Island located along the Indian Ocean coastline in Kenya is a popular holiday resort. The island boasts of sandy beaches and Afro-Arabian culture depicted in the architecture, cuisine, language and costumes of the habitants. Like any coastal town in Kenya, Lamu’s expanse port is littered with traditional dhows that suggest the primal economic activity, which is fishing, that is carried out here. These are also motor-powered boats both private and for hire to tourists for adventure escapades. But it is the traditional dhows that stand out here because of the tradition and identity of the Island they preserve. The port unlike its contemporaries like Mombasa still boasts of raw cultural practices by its residents that are uninterrupted by time and post- modernist tendencies.

These unique attributes provided inspiration to Kateregga Ismael’s ongoing exhibition at Afriart gallery in Kampala. Motivated by a recent trip to the resort, the artist paints scenes of traditional dhows and settlements along the beach, and traders in the morning hustle and bustle typical of coastal townships.  The artist juxtaposes these oil paintings with scenes captured from Ugandan beaches like Munyonyo, Kiyindi and Kasenyi landing sites to create a contrast of the coastal town and the fishing venues within the mainland. Lamu has a serene feel with open skies, developed settlements; possibly tourist hotels, and a relaxed pace in quiet environs and narrow streets of the ancient stone city. On the other hand, Kasenyi landing site has hordes of people, possibly fish mongers, without discernible modern settlements or sense of leisure. Even the boats are different. Some Lamu boats are luxury tourist yachts and vessels with canopies and masts that ease sailing in strong ocean winds while the Uganda vessels are mainly functional fishing paddle canoes.

In a painting titled `It’s business as usual 2017’, measuring 200cm x 150cm, the artist paints an early morning scene on the Lamu beach with dhows and a handful of fishing vessels docked at sea, as a crowd of traders jostles to buy fish from the fishermen on the ashore. In the background of the painting, is an abstract illustration of permanent structures that presumably house the city. A dreamy  character which permeates the oil paintings is contagious and leaves one feeling like they are on the beach even though they are not there physically.

Kateregga has mastered the craft of inclusion; inviting his audience to partake of his experiences on canvas. This is also evident in his previous works on city sceneries and landscapes where he skillfully invited the audience to be part of the painting by adeptly applying the perspective technique. In this exhibit, however, the artist toys with space on canvas to create an illusion of depth and fantasy for his paintings. He is a master of landscapes.

The exhibition opened on July 7 at Afriart gallery in Kamwokya, Kampala  and will run until the end of the month.


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