The tadooba, a tin wick lamp is a familiar object in many rural homesteads across Uganda. Even in urban areas, it is commonly used to light some roadside businesses that operate after nightfall.
In the case of the capital city, Kampala, food and fruit vendors, and street hawkers use them in suburbs like Nateete, Nakulabye, Bwaise, Kabalangala, Bweyongere, and Kalerwe.
Symbolically, the tadooba illuminates the difference in social and economic status between urbanites and the rural folk and even among the urbanites themselves. That illumination is the subject of an ongoing exhibition titled `Tadooba Flames’ at the Nommo Gallery in Kampala, writes Dominic Muwanguzi.
In some of the works on display, the artist; RichardWeazher Mayanja, juxtaposes the dark floating flames with abstract human figures and music objects on canvas to reveal the social context of the exhibit.
Literally these paintings offer a feel good appreciation of art because of their dreamy and decorative style. On the other hand, these abstract paintings are a figurative depiction of the human condition and behavior. Like the tadooba flame, the human condition is not static: it can be luminous like the light of the Tadooba or it can be melancholy like the dark flames that choke you once you inhale them. Some of the painting are surreal and resonate with the other aspect of the artist’s muse in music and poetry.
Mayanja was raised in musical family and performed with the famous SAMADS performers as a 12-year old. He confesses that his music has a direct influence on his art; sometimes he paints as a result of his music compositions. A validation to this inspiration is the dominant use of music instruments in his paintings and the feeling of serenity that runs through the exhibit. The artist’s tough childhood too is manifest in this show.
The choice of subject matter, `tadooba flames’, is a metaphor of his personal struggles as a child. When looked at this way, the `Tadooba Flames’ exhibit moves beyond sparking dialogue on social aspects of life to stimulating discussion of the notion of artists as subjects in their paintings. The latter is essential in strengthening the artistic narrative of the artworks on display and cementing the relationship between artist, artwork, and public.
`Tadooba Flames’ exhibition is showing now at the Nommo gallery, Nakasero in Kampala.