Affiliate of Nagenda International Academy of Art and Design targets work by starting artists
ARTS | NATHAN KIWERE | The age-old maxim attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson goes, “If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon or make a better mouse trap than his neighbours, though he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.” Surely Emerson’s sentiment could not have been a matter of wishful thinking, or is it? If what the prospects of Uganda’s latest addition to the growing list of art galleries is anything to go by, then we have to look at it with a grain of optimism.
In March 2020, Seyna Art Gallery swung its doors open to the public during its official launch amid pomp, becoming the latest exhibition platform on Uganda’s arts landscape. Located some three kilometres off Entebbe highway from Namulanda, the gallery, a brainchild of Norwegian artist Eirik Jarl Trondsen and Prof. Kizito Maria Kasule, is annexed to the Nagenda International Academy of Art and Design (NIAAD). The space serves as a commercial art gallery while at the same time being used as a teaching gallery for art students of NIAAD.
The opening show of the gallery was curated by renowned Bologna-based Dutch artist, Cornelis Ryken. The name Cornelis is by no means a light name among the European art connoisseurs; it settles well among the post-modern progressives. He has his works displayed in public spaces in Italy, USA, England, and The Netherlands. It was a rare opportunity for the students of NIAAD to have him spare three months of his time since January 2020 sharing his priceless skills with the neophytes.
The maiden art exhibition featured a mixture of works by the current and former students of NIAAD, works of lecturers, as well as works from professional artists not affiliated to the institution. It also featured guests artists from the Masai Mbili aka M2, an outfit based in the Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi and East Africa. The exhibition climaxed with a fashion show of works of students of NIAAD.
“What we want is a professional art gallery but most importantly we would like to give an opportunity for starters to showcase their work in a reputable space,” Cornelis said. He posited that usually when young artists fail to get exhibition opportunities on big platforms they resort to doing crafts which sell faster and end up abandoning their hard-earned skills that require more time and opportunity.
Indeed, Seyna gallery is far from a makeshift space that some platforms located in Kampala city can be; it occupies a capacious complex complete with professional display lights and several collapsible partitions. Apart from the Makerere art gallery that was designed to serve the purpose it does, Seyna is only the second such space that was not simply converted from a residential house, as is the case with the majority. It is the largest art display platform between Uganda’s gateway (Entebbe) and the capital city.
According to Derrick Kitto; the gallery manager, their target audience is not specific but rather the general public, although he admits that they are eyeing the tourists that enter and exit the country daily. “We cannot pretend about it; we shall be beneficiaries of the daily steady traffic of the visitors entering and/or leaving the country,” he said.
However, it goes without saying that the opening of the gallery could not have come at a more inauspicious moment, as the world grapples with the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. With air travel in the limbo and NIAAD under lock-and-key, this may appear to a false start but with the well-known resilience of art, the world looks forward to the birth of Seyna art gallery and the fortunes it brings to the art market.
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