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Cliff Kibuuka’s metropolis

Artist shows off his immense love for Kampala

Kampala, Uganda | DOMINIC MUWANGUZI | Cliff Kibuuka will talk about Kampala City anywhere, any time – but not anyhow. He loves the city and sees only good even in its bad side. He adores its bustle and multi-cultures. In his latest solo exhibition My “Metropolis” is dedicated to it.

The paintings are exuberant: washed in a rich dark and bright palette to showcase the varied character of the city; from order to disorder, rich neighbourhoods sitting next to the shanty settlements, the thriving informal businesses that are fast eclipsing the traditional permanent structures and the magnificent skyline.

Kibuuka’s immense passion is clear as he depicts the city metaphorically but without exaggeration and focuses on navigating it with his palette to highlight unfamiliar sides of Kampala.

For example, his series of paintings on the skyline both under nightfall and in the morning as the sun rises, offer almost a novel identity to that specific place to the extent that even someone who resides within those neighbourhoods is startled by the magical look.

Unlike in previous work where he predominantly painted the rusty and clustered roofs of Kampala’s shanty settlements, Kibuuka concentrates on the capital’s skyline that he describes as “ completely unique and keeps on shifting.” This is evident in all the paintings in the exhibit that portray a varied cloud formation at very specific time of the day or night.

Such quality appears effortlessly in the artist’s work, probably inspired by the fact that as a passionate landscape artist, he submerges himself into the subject matter. This is enhanced by the fact that he rarely employs human figures in his work. Why? “As a landscape painter in its purest form I restrict the use of human figures in the paintings to not take away the attention from the subject,” he explains. Nonetheless, one can observe abstract human figures in one of the painting, Docked at Ggaba 2, perhaps to break away from the usual composition, but also as a symbol of his evolution as an artist.

The ability to be critically observant is undoubtedly Kibuuka’s forte. He thus paints that personality of Kampala that not everyone sees, but is there! For example, the fruit stalls figuratively represent Kampala as a warm welcoming space because it has enough food for its inhabitants.

His partner, Camilla, describes the artist as a very passionate, patriotic, hardworking and focused individual. She says Kibuuka’s paintings have a particular premonition to them.

“It is as if the thunderstorm is coming,” she says.

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`My Metropolis’ is showing now at Umoja Art gallery, located opposite Kobil Petrol Station in Kamwokya. Images courtesy of the Artist.

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