Focus on photography, video art, installation, graffiti, sound art, fashion
| MATT KAYEM | Multi-disciplinary artist, Samson Ssenkaaba aka Xenson is opening an art space in our great city, Kampala. This is wonderful news mainly because spaces dedicated to contemporary art in Kampala are not many. While scrolling through my Facebook, I had stumbled on a post by Xenson; an image of him atop a ladder and painting his signature bantufitti on a wall. The line work reminds me of the Nyero rock scribbles and also Keith Harring. An earlier post on his wall with images of painters holding rollers had been captioned “something coming”. This teasing is what made me hunt him down. I met Xenson at the space y and he went in about the project. One thing to note is he’s not calling it a gallery; a sign that he is not into joining the notorious game of art dealing.
Xenson’s art space is in Kamwokya just next to Afriart Gallery which, with its two spaces – in Kamwokya and Industrial Area – has enjoyed a monopoly, trading and showing cutting edge contemporary artists in the city.
Xenson says his space is not to compete with the giant Afriart. Instead, the two storeyed facility will be dedicated to the young generation that have an experimental angle to their work, preferably those working in the new media. Meaning that areas like photography, video art, installation, graffiti, sound art, fashion and so forth will be given a higher priority.
Xenson says that he wants to organise workshops and talks at the space that might have not more than four exhibitions annually. The space will not heavily concentrate on the sale of art. Its focus will be on showing, educating and initiating the general public into the ‘problematic’ world of contemporary art. The veteran artist hopes to offer consultancy services as well to art lovers and collectors, an area I talked in length with him.
“There is a need to have the Ugandan to consume what we do,” he said. He further adds that it’s not fulfilling to have our works bought by foreigners at hefty prices and taken out of the country. There is a need for the Ugandan artist to be known and revered like his performing counterpart on his own home turf. And since the space is a small one, he hopes to work with artists producing miniature sized works and a not so large volumes of collections. These small sized works with inviting affordable prices can be easily carried away by a Ugandan.
32° East | Ugandan Arts Trust in Kansanga is what comes close to what Xenson hopes to do with his new space. Only difference is that they provide residencies for artists which he won’t be doing. They have an exhibition space but hardly hold any exhibitions which gap Xenson hopes to fill. Like 32, Xenson wants to nurture the next creative generation and I really think he’s in a right position to pass on the necessary knowledge to the young ones coming up. For an artist whose career spans more than 15 years, with a hand in almost every area attached to art, from poetry to performance, what better way to give back to the community.
Matt Kayem is a contemporary artist, art critic and writer living and working in Kampala, Uganda. He can be reached via email, firstname.lastname@example.org.