Western auction houses are famed for their recording-breaking sales of works of art that pit some of the world’s leading oligarchs keen on collecting art. In 2015 alone, the combined turnover of art auctions was a mind-boggling $986 million, shattering all previous records.
Spanish master Pablo Picasso alone grossed a quarter of the total revenues from just three of his works, one of them going for $179.4 million, while other notable artists included the likes of Amedeo Modigliani, Alberto Giacometti, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein.
These are mainly European and a few American artists that blossomed between the early 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. This kind of news has been alien to the African art market that has perennially remained a footnote to the major patronage systems in Western art capitals.
However, Ugandan artist Amanda Evassy Tumusiime is seeking to overturn the wheels of fortune of Ugandan and, to some extent, African art by selling one of her paintings at a whopping $1.2m.
So the question that many might ask is: who does she think she is? Or, where does she get the temerity to price her work above any previous threshold? Amanda may never feel hard-pressed to respond to these qualms about her work.
With a Bachelors degree, two masters, a PhD and three post-doctoral fellowships, including those from the American Council for Learned Societies and the prestigious Fulbright, Amanda is by all measures the most decorated female artist in Uganda’s living memory.
She has transcended long entrenched stereotypes, gender prejudice and all related limitations to carve an indelible niche for herself that has added a high price tag to her works. Moreover, Amanda is not the usual run-of-the-mill artist; she only showcases her collection every ten years.
She last exhibited her work in 2005 at Nommo gallery under the theme, “Hidden Treasures”, where one of her works was priced at one hundred million shillings, a thing that made quite a buzz on the wire.
More than a decade later, Amanda is back with yet another collection of close to thirty paintings trading under the theme, “Another Place, Another Time”, which also doubles as the title of her flagship 1.2 million dollar art work. The journey of this particular work started in the year 2002 in her ancestral village of Kabale where she did the sketch with inspiration from the beautiful undulating hills that this place is well known for. She worked on it all these years and she feels justified to have it fetch a fair price.
In this mural, she reduces the lush green hills to bold brush and palette knife strokes that build up from a medley of vivid green, blue and red hues that gradually fade away into the distance in the background to echo the bright future that lies ahead of us.
Another worked titled `Sailing Through’ is going for $1 million. It is boats sailing on turbulent waters, portraying the resilience of the human spirit in travailing through tough times.
The rest of the collection is about works that are made in series of three to five pieces. All of these depict different seasons such as Sunset/Sunrise, North Carolina Spring, Water Pond, City Scape, Serenity Scape, Falling in Love, Sunrise Over the Bridge/Sunset Over the Bridge. The price ranges of these start from $2,000 upwards.
Amanda speaks with a tone of satisfaction that will easily dispel any thought of profiteering from her art. She expresses her exceeding gratitude for the fortunes that life has bestowed upon her and consequently seeks to use her resources to benefit other less privileged people. For instance, she plans to use the returns from her sales to build a hostel for female students in her village in Kabale.
Her show will take place on Oct. 28 at the Emin Pasha hotel in Nakasero, Kampala. It is a one day event.