Top five artists on the Kampala Art Scene
Kampala, Uganda | DOMINIC MUWANGUZI | Samson Xenson Ssenkaaba: Xenson is a first class graduate of the School of Industrial and Fine Arts at Makerere University and his name is synonymous with colossal experimental artwork produced from both indigenous (barkcloth) and synthetic material. He is a multi-media artist blending elements of fashion, poetry and hip-hop culture in his artistic practice. His performance of Ensi yaleta at the Johannesburg Art Festival 2015 and Musisi at the itinerary exhibit Kabo Ka Muwala 2015 held at Makerere art gallery, highlighted his creative ingenuity and elicited a stading ovation for the youthful artist. But it is GunflowerMask 2017 that got everyone talking on the Kampala art scene. In the exhibition, Xenson demonstrated his exalted proficiency at pushing the boundaries of art. He exhibited Photography, Painting and Installation in large scale and with attention to detail. His artistic narrative was largely dominated by the global current situation that includes issues of immigration, neo-colonialism, exploitation and material culture.
With such energy, skill and genius mindset, Xenson is fast transforming the local art scene from a mediocre landscape to a vibrant one.
He is known as the paper bead King locally and internationally. The ability to recycle paper into colourful beads with a motive of inspiring a visual narrative of recycling and figurative representation of day to day life experiences, endorses him as a uniquely creative artist. He also works with barkcloth as a symbol of blending the traditional art practices with the contemporary. But it is the stories he tells with his art that capture the audiences globally. He is keenly aware of the global political and social landscape and as such, constructs his installations to respond to such conversation. His large-scale installation Paths is a response to the subject of immigration that is a hot topic in Europe. Similarly, his popular figurative installation of a pair of spiritual deities: woman and man convey the message of African spiritualism in an era of neo-colonialism. Sanaa has featured at the Johannesburg Art Fair, Paris Art Fair and recently at AKAA Art Fair, Paris 2017.
Immaculate Immy Mali
She defies the stereotype that experience comes with age. This young artist has probably had the most illustrious art career, any artist on the local art scene would dream of. She makes art out of her own life struggles, and that perhaps is an added advantage because her stories are both genuine and heart-rending. Her installation Virtually Mine, at Kabo Ka Muwala exhibition was poignant. She worked with small glass panel inscribed on with WhatsApp messages. The dangling glass panels demonstrated her fragile relationship with her boyfriend who lives overseas. Such long distance love is delicate and is either sustained or destroyed by social media discourse. As if that was not emotional enough, she set out to perform Safe Here at Kampala Art Biennale 2016. Mali, albeit her physical inability in the right leg, struggled to find balance on a bicycle, so as she could ride it. The performance that lasted a few minutes left her dripping with sweat as the audience looked on in disbelief. Presently pursuing an international art residence in Europe, Mali is an undisputed influence on the local art scene and beyond.
The strength of this lanky artist lies in his invoking political satire in art. As such, Sane is a political satirist with a knack of fusing artistic parody with political evils. The motive for this blend is to create simple understanding and interpretation of complex subjects like immigration, neo-colonialism, racism and homosexuality for his audience. Another trait of his art is to invoke academic theories of political revolutionaries in his art in order to evoke the idea of authenticity in his narratives. Exhibitions like Abaneene 2014, Black Faces, White Masks 2015 and Creases and Tears 2017 share this common characteristic. Sane’s deep conscious of inspiring such political discourse to the public through art makes him a bold artist. Few artists on the local scene are brave enough to use their craft to interrogate political injustices. It is a venture they think will land their art into jeopardy. With such brevity, the PhD student at the University of Southampton, England has showcased at the Johannesburg Art Fair, Kenya Art Fair and Paris Art Fair, France.
What Ronex cannot say in speech, he will say eloquently in his art. He is undoubtedly known as the trendsetter of technical innovation on the local art scene, and this he continuously emphasizes with art that is a creative blend of technical dexterity and the power of the subconscious. He is a multi-media artist working in painting, digital art, sculpture and installation. Nonetheless, his art is dominated with figurative contrasts of simplicity and complexity, naivety and sophistication, and beauty and ugly. This technique stimulates visual inquiry into his art culminating into a myriad of answers and questions from the audience. Unlike his contemporaries who create art to entertain and convey a particular message, Ronex primary motive is to elicit dialoguefrom the public. As such, he’s eager to move art outside its comfort zone of an elitist audience.