When Saad Lukwago started teaching art in high school nearly a decade ago, his students expected him to exude the highest standards of artistic practice in his own works, the same way he instructed them to do and this standard, according to them, was art rendered in photographic precision. However, when some students chanced to see his abstract paintings that he planned to exhibit in a major gallery in Kampala, they felt exceedingly letdown by his “pseudo professionalism” to the extent that they labeled his productions as “fake fake art”. Rather amused by the interpretation of his work by his ‘naïve’ students, Lukwago wasted no time in seeing this new designation as an opportunity and consequently baptised his work, albeit with a tweak, as “Fek Fek art” for the succeeding period. He held public shows under the label and also established what came to be a popular Facebook page using the same signature, writes Nathan Kiwere.
Lukwago is not alone in this enterprise.
Over a century and a half ago, some of French art history’s most recognisable brands such as Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, et al, did a group exhibition in Paris where one of Monet’s paintings was titled “Impression, Soleil Levant” (Impression, Sunrise). An art critic reported in the press about the show, disparagingly referring to it as the show of “the so-called Impressionists”, in reference to Monet’s work, the de facto leader of the group. Rather than feel offended by the negative remark, they conversely adopted the inference and dubbed their show the “Exhibition of the Impressionists”, which history writers later permanently called the beginning of the Impressionist movement.
Although Lukwago quit teaching last year to pursue a full time career in art, his art still belches a nostalgic hangover of his recent past. He trained in art education at Kyambogo University where he started engaging in group exhibitions at Nommo gallery as early as his first year. Even when he dabbled in music as a studio hand, DJ, and music scheduler, he continued to be fascinated by animation art.
Today, Lukwago’s art is a reflection of a combination of musical rhythm and strong comic cartoon impressions.
Using mainly acrylics because of their fast-drying advantage, Lukwago has established his artistic character of painting in bold outlines and sharp colours in creating his ludicrously overstated caricatures of human figures.
One of the paintings titled “The Caucus” (he admitted that the original titled was “the cock ass”) is about a family meeting of cocks (read politicians) ostensibly engaged in one of their characteristic stratagems, probably with intent to achieve their self-aggrandisement.
Lukwago is quite cagey about the details of this work for fear of possible backlash from the all-powerful caucus should they find out that he is out to frustrate their ploy with his nonsensical obscurantist visual rants.
Other works assume the trait of aliens as we know them in science fiction movies. He presents the tall slender figurines staring suspiciously with their extra-large unblinking eyes settling with unease on small heads pinned on towering necks. These too he generously endows with colour, patterns, and contrasts that give the impression of a textile design.
With this mastery, it would be interesting to find out if his former students would think again whether his art has actually gained currency or it remains the same old fek fek art.