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City of art: The spaces shaping Kampala creators and consumers

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It is impossible to talk about the arts and cultural scene in Uganda and not talk about the Kampala contemporary art scene, writes Dominic Muwanguzi. Since 2001, growth of the Kampala contemporary art scene has been facilitated by emerging new art spaces, new artists eager to innovate with non- traditional media and techniques, and art events; workshops, residences, and festivals that bring together artists from all over the continent to Kampala. Notable mentions include:

Afriart Gallery

Afriart gallery, a private art space in Kampala is located in Kamwokya, a suburb of Kampala. It hosts monthly shows for artists working within Kampala and its neighbourhood that attract expatriates, young corporates, or business people. The space also provides art consultancy to corporate companies that want to display art in their office space, art collectors, and budding artists who want to exhibit their work.

The Kampala Art Biennale

The KampalaArt Biennale was founded by the KampalaArts Trust- a Ugandan based non- profit organisation that includes a collective of visual and performance art practitioners. The month long festival brings together artists from the continent. The first festival inAugust 2014 saw forty artists fromKenya, Ghana, Ethiopia, SouthAfrica, Congo, Nigeria, and hosts Uganda under the theme: `ProgressiveAfrica’. The festival is designed to stir conversation on the role of the black continent in the social, political, and economic development of the globe and artists from the continent express on global issues like consumerism, racism, neo-colonialism and autocracy.

The response from the public highlights the hunger for such type of dialogue in the arts. In so many ways, this single event has marked the end of the era of touristic art that is synonymous with artists working in the region.

KLA ART Festival

KLAART Festival is about art in public spaces. Organised by 32° East, the event has made Kampala’s contemporary art scene notoriously familiar with art in public space. The inaugural event in 2012, codenamed KLAART 012, featured twelve artist under the theme: `12 moving containers’. The artists turned twelve shipping containers- used in many parts of Kampala as business space-into open studios and invited urbanites to see what was being showcased.

The second event of the festival, KLAART 014 evolved on theme of Boda- Boda; a mobile motorcycle mode of transport within Kampala and its suburbs.

The Boda-Boda project during the festival entailed the artist moving across the city with an artwork to spark conversation among the public. At its location in Kansanga, on the outskirts of Kampala, 32° East also provides studio space for individual artists or groups to work creatively for three months minimum.

Makerere School of Fine Arts

The Margaret Trowel Faculty of Industrial and Fine Arts (Makerere School of Fine Arts) is at the centre of art education in Uganda. Started in 1939 by Mrs. Margaret Trowell, an art educationist and a graduate of the Slade art school, England, the institution pioneered art education and holds an annual exhibition of art lecturers of the institution named, `Different But One’.

Initiated in 1996, by Rebeka Uziel a former staffer at the school, it enables the dons to showcase their work.

Makerere Art Gallery

Makerere Art Gallery, arguably the only public gallery in Uganda holds regular exhibitions for its lecturers and alumni.

MziliDaudi: Dichotomy of Creativity is an annual art show by two art school alumni-Henry Mzili Mujunga and Daudi Karungi- that not only showcases the idea of creativity, but also binds the former students with the institution. Furthermore, as an institution of Heritage Conservation and Restoration, the art gallery regularly hosts shows that celebrate Uganda’s diverse cultural heritage.

Exhibitions like Ekifananyi (read Pictures) 1,2, 3 presented by History in Progress Uganda- a non -profit organisation that documents Uganda’s political, social history through photography-portray the benefits of research in the visual arts and re-emphasize the role played by photography in contemporary art.

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