By Nathan Kiwere
When 19th century French Romanticism painter, Jean-Louis Andre Theodore Gericault and his ilk rebelled against Neo-Classical art in Europe, they were driven by the belief in the exaltation of the senses and emotions over reason and intellect. To this end, they were able to martial a small army of artists with this shared vision and pioneered an artistic movement that dominated European art for generations before it was ousted by yet another movement called Realism spearheaded by Gustave Courbet.
Such art movements are unrecorded in Uganda and indeed most of Africa. As a consequence, art takes a multiplicity of directions that could be equated in political terms as ‘individual merit’. This is how Taga Nuwagaba was able to chart his path of Realism painting into wildlife. Right from the outset of his art career in the early 1990s, he carved himself a niche as a leading artist in this genre.
He works in oils, watercolours and acrylics, with themes ranging from gorillas, chimpanzees, birds, nature and some occasional urban life and human figures. He has mastered the art of colour, using suave brush strokes to bring to life to nature forms with photographic precision. The style of art that Taga produces is hard to relate to other isms around the world. Many aspiring artists have tried with little success to jump into it but Taga remains a class apart.
Taga Nuwagaba and American photographer Barbara Hollweg fight for nature
At this stage of his life, Taga is producing art with a medley of fun and purpose. His proclivity towards wildlife now transcends the depiction of beauty to advocacy for the preservation of the same. Together with American photographer Barbara Hollweg, the duo is mounting an art exhibition titled “Jewel of the Jungle” that will be running at the Sheraton Hotel from May 26 to 29. It aims to raise funds for building a health facility for chimps in Ngamba Island courtesy of the Chimp Trust.
The show is inspired by the philosophy that the need to guarantee the welfare of mankind has since time immemorial been on top of the global agenda. However, the resolve with which this goal is pursued has never been in tandem with the urgency to protect nature – the very habitation upon which mankind subsists.
The prospect of conserving our natural species in their wealth and diversity is a challenging task that cannot be left to one community, organisation, country or even continent to undertake but rather a task that will, just like welfare for mankind, take collective effort. In the same token, the well being of nature cannot be left to the whims of selfish individuals that drive our natural wonders to extinction due to shortsighted gains. Protecting nature is not an option because nature is not a place to visit but home to live. Destroying forests for economic reasons is a costly misadventure with far-reaching future repercussions that can be likened to burning invaluable classical paintings to prepare a meal for a day.
A healthy ecosystem is a birthright that must be protected using all means possible and Taga will stop at nothing to make his personal contribution towards the same.
Some of the species in the show include elephants, gorilla, crested cranes, buffaloes, among others. The duo is out to prove that, unlike the French Romanticists’ penchant for senses and emotions; they are for a realistic portrayal of the beauty of nature and the reason to fight tooth and nail to preserve it.