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George Kyeyune: an artist in metamorphosis

George Kyeyune, lost wax sculpture in progress, 2015

George Kyeyune, lost wax sculpture in progress, 2015. Photo: Margaret Nagawa

George Kyeyune is a painter, sculptor, art historian, educator, and administrator. His role as an educator has been profiled here and here. He performs these multiple roles as a member of the academic staff at the Makerere Art School where he is director of the Makerere Art Gallery / Institute of Heritage Conservation and Restoration. In his new body of work for this exhibition created over the last six months, we see Kyeyune in a moment of transformation. Employing a multitude of materials, he narrates the notion of mobility through geographical space, social status, and his own artistic practice. In his Power of the Eye article of Friday 8th February 2013, Dominic Muwanguzi suggested that Kyeyune’s exhibition at Afriart Gallery was “studying the social scene of Kampala.” Kyeyune was then depicting boda boda drivers and mweso playing youth in Kampala. This time he presents a more personal narrative. Kyeyune was recently privileged to host an introduction ceremony, kwanjula, of one of his young relatives. He presided as a respected elder, a role that gave him a vantage point of power to observe and guide the ceremony. It was a springboard for this new work. There was a reawakening in him of the social expectations and actions played by various members in a community. He narrates a tradition that has remained alive despite the changing times where communications in a globalized world render the distant within reach, and the foreign accessible. At a touch of a button, after purchasing an Internet Bundle in Uganda’s bundled communications infrastructure, the world is in ones hands for as long as the bundle lasts.

George Kyeyune, at the kwanjula ceremony, 2015

George Kyeyune, at the kwanjula ceremony, 2015. Photo: Margaret Nagawa

The kwanjula ceremony performed among the Baganda is where a young woman introduces her intended marriage partner to her family. There is a roundness to the people Kyeyune depicts, a sign of health; affectionate gestures of friendship in arms wrapped around each other in an embrace. Gentle smiles. Richly hued and riotously textured in oils, touches of bright red provide a luminous centre for most of the paintings. This lends them an energy that is always palpable at the kwanjula ceremonies.

George Kyeyune, the beer, 2015

                                              George Kyeyune, the beer, 2015. Photo: Margaret Nagawa

The joy and vibrancy of the occasion masks a necessary interrogation of the role of women in Uganda’s society today. This is a debate about equality of men and women, women’s careers, their rights and responsibilities that Amanda Tumusiime discusses in her 2012 doctoral research. It is worth examining the reasoning behind the continuation of male members of the family presiding over the kwanjula proceedings. Men carrying traditional beer to the young woman’s father – a significant part of the discussions where the young woman is asked, omwenge tunywe? should we drink the alcohol? If she agrees, and the father in turn approves of the brew’s potency, there is agreement for the marriage to proceed. The mother is never consulted. She is not even present to observe. Rather, if anything should go wrong, she carries the blame: mwaana mubi, avumya nyina, a poorly behaved child, brings scorn on the mother.” Perhaps this state of affairs might metamorphose if room for debate is allowed to expand.

George Kyeyune, a continuation of the boda boda theme, 2015

                                     George Kyeyune, a continuation of the boda boda theme, 2015.  Photo: Margaret Nagawa

The elements of gesture, pose, colour relationships, and facial expression are a grammar that owes a debt to a Makerere art education. Kyeyune not only employs this grammar but also passes it on to his students. He teaches and creates with, and among, his students whom one observes working on sculptures in the outdoor studio at the Sculpture Department of the art school. This studio is under a tree shade provided by a muwafu tree among others. Kyeyune is experimenting with its sap for use as wax in lost wax sculptures. The brass is recycled salvaged padlocks, window handles, and other such brass objects. He melts and uses them for the sculptures in this exhibition. The few slabs that form the crucified Jesus Christ, and the heavily textured female and male mortals are a testament to his innovative approach to art making.

George Kyeyune, lost wax sculpture in progress, 2015. Photo: Margaret Nagawa

George Kyeyune, lost wax sculpture in progress, 2015. Photo: Margaret Nagawa

The interesting parallels between geographical mobility, social mobility, and material experimentation in Kyeyune’s older boda boda images and the new kwanjula body of work, show us an artist transforming into nuanced visual narratives. It is our responsibility as viewers to take that innovative step with him into further discussion of the art’s deeper significance.

George Kyeyune, lost wax sculpture ready for cleaning, 2015

George Kyeyune, lost wax sculpture ready for cleaning, 2015. Photo: Margaret Nagawa

This text was first published in August 2015 by Makerere Art Gallery / Institute of Heritage Conservation and Restoration, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda, in the exhibition catalogue Quiet Dignity, a solo exhibition by George Kyeyune.

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Addis Foto Fest

Addis Foto Fest opened at noon on December the 1st, in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia. The opening exhibition Visions Of Africa featuring photographers from across the continent, was installed outdoors, by the Sheraton Addis Hotel fountain, allowing for a smooth flow of viewers among and between the display panels.

Addis Foto Fest 2014, Visions Of Africa exhibition

Addis Foto Fest 2014, Visions Of Africa exhibition

On Tuesday December 2, 2014, The Americas: United States & Latin America was opened at the National Museum on a cold, cold evening. Where was my gabi when I needed it? The speeches where delivered in a really crowded entryway, as we all tried to listen and get warm.

Johnette Iris Stubbs at the opening of The Americas: United States & Latin America

Photographer Johnette Iris Stubbs at the opening of The Americas: United States & Latin America


KLA ART 014

Hoods Jjuuko, Kampala Taxi Park, 2012

Hoods Jjuuko, Kampala Taxi Park, 2012

Coming soon in our beautiful city, Kampala! Are you ready?

facebook.com/klaart

klaart.org


KLA ART 014 Curatorial Committee – a glimpse

 

KLA ART 014 curatorial committee

KLA ART 014 curatorial committee

KLA ART 014 is an bi-annual art festival in Kampala, Uganda. It is a platform for showcasing new and emerging ideas in art with a special focus on Eastern and Central Africa. It is slated for the month of October 2014. Fringe events are already happening in regional towns like Fort Portal, Gulu, Mbale, and Jinja in partnership with Bayimba Festival.

The first iteration of this contemporary art festival was KLA ART 012 with the theme 12 Boxes Moving. It took place in twelve shipping containers transformed by artists at twelve sites across Kampala city. A broad spectrum of Kampala audiences attended the festival whose program included artists’ talks, film screenings, workshops and discussions.

In mid April 2014, Katrin Peters-Klaphake, curator of Makerere Art Gallery / IHCR, and myself, were invited to attend one of the curatorial committee meetings for the KLA ART 014 festival. The curatorial committee is charged with developing the overall concept for KLA ART 014. As experienced curators in the Kampala arts community, we served as sounding boards for the team. Four of the five members were present:

Violet Nantume

Violet Nantume, 32° East

Moses Sserubiri, writer, startjournal

Moses Sserubiri, writer, startjournal

Phillip Balimunsi, artist

Phillip Balimunsi, artist

Robinah Nansubuga, 32° East

Robinah Nansubuga, 32° East

The meeting was held at 32° East / Ugandan Arts Trust, in their Kansanga relaxed outdoor meeting space.

32° East / Ugandan Arts Trust in Kansanga

32° East / Ugandan Arts Trust in Kansanga

The curatorial committee then had a Skype meeting with South African curator Gabi Ngcobo who is serving as the KLA ART 014 Curatorial Advisor. I stayed for this part as an observer. It was a brief conversation due to electricity outage, a constant reality for the Eastern African artists that these dynamic, young curators are planning to work with.

Skype meeting with Gabi Ngcobo, curatorial advisor

Skype meeting with Gabi Ngcobo, curatorial advisor

The varied elements of the festival including artists, ideas, sites of display, issues of translation, and other behind-the-scenes details are coming together. The curatorial team has a positive energy, and seems to be working well together. Of course they have divergent ideas of what form the festival should take. I view this as a healthy part of team curating. If they all agreed as termites, what fun would that be? Where would variety come from? Which fresh perspectives would emerge? Each curator brings a different skill set to the preparations. I am sure the festival will harness the best of their talents.

British Creative Producer, Laura Ratling, is the Project Manager, with British Council support. Rocca Gutteridge is the Project Director, charged with overseeing the running and overall vision of the festival. She is supported by the entire team at 32° East.

A network of Associate Partners is working with 32° East | Ugandan Arts Trust to make the festival a reality. These partners are permanent Kampala based arts organizations. They include: Bayimba Festival, Afri Art Gallery, Makerere Art Gallery/IHCR, Goethe‑Zentrum, Alliance Française, Nommo Gallery, AKA Gallery and Uganda Museum. With such a network of committed people and organizations, the festival can only succeed!

I urge you to mark the month of October on your calendar and be sure to spend it with us in vibrant Kampala.

Margaret Nagawa


Bruno Sserunkuuma, Way of the Cross

Bruno Sserunkuuma

Bruno Sserunkuuma

This is Lent season in Christianity that leads to Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and celebration of Easter. In Orthodox Tewahedo Christianity here in Ethiopia, it is Fasting time too. It takes the form of abstaining from all animal protein during a 56-day Lent, until Fasika. It is also The Fast for the Baha’i Faith, a 19-day period, which culminates into Nawruz on 21st March, the first day of spring in some parts of the world. It is similar to Ramadan in Islam: no food or drink from sunrise to sunset. This time of the year marks a meeting point for my childhood and adult life. I was raised Catholic but became Baha’i as an undergraduate at Makerere University. I loved to read. OK, I still love to read. I read voraciously from Janice Lever’s library at Auntie Clare’s Kindergarten in Mengo. She is a woman with a golden heart! A! Her commission of illustrations for children’s books availed me the pocket money every campuser needs, as well as a rich library with a quiet place to immerse myself in new mysteries.

Anyway I am digressing – Lent… Fasting – I am getting there … In 1997, Bruno Sserunkuma and Rose Namubiru Kirumira completed a chapel interior in Kamuli. They were commissioned by the Salesians of Don Bosco to create artworks for the chapel at St Joseph Vocational Training Centre. It is very peaceful in that little chapel based on the kasiisira, the round hut in local architecture. The tadooba-design lamps on the walls are Namubiru Kirumira’s. Their light casts just enough illumination on Sserunkuuma’s wall ‘plaques’ recounting the Way of the Cross.

Don Bosco chapel, St. Joseph Vocational Training Centre, Kamuli

Don Bosco chapel, St. Joseph Vocational Training Centre, Kamuli

 Sserunkuuma took the Ganda pot, cut it in half, and transformed it from a water vessel to an object of veneration. He is a ceramist, a Muganda man, Musajja wa Kabaka, married to omumbejja. Inevitably, he turned to the material culture of the Baganda, drawing on his heritage, to inform these artworks, adding his art school education for the glazing. Painted patterns form his recognizable signature style.

Bruno Sserunkuuma, Way of the Cross III and IV, Don Bosco Chapel, Kamuli

Bruno Sserunkuuma, Way of the Cross III and IV, Don Bosco Chapel, Kamuli

Now, could someone please to go to Don Bosco chapel during this fasting period, and at Easter, then tell us how these artworks animate the congregation?

 Katonda agulumizibwe!

Mukama yeebazibwe!

Egziabher Yimesgen!

Alláh-u-Abhá!

Allahu Akbar!


Amanda Tumusiime – Shattered Glass Ceiling

It is worth your while to visit Ms. Tumusiime’s exhibition and be sure to chat with her.

Makerere Art Gallery / MIHCR

Amanda Tumusiime is a painter, scholar and educator at Margret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Arts, Makerere University in Kampala. She holds a PhD from the University of South Africa, Pretoria, where she graduated with a thesis on ART AND GENDER: IMAG(IN)ING THE NEW WOMAN IN CONTEMPORARY UGANDAN ART in 2012.
Her paper is a thorough analysis of gendered representations in Ugandan art and visual culture. This research has informed and inspired her own artistic practice. Over the years Amanda has produced several series of paintings visualizing women’s emancipation looking at historical as well as recent topics.

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Mathias Muwonge Kyazze: the master of glass art

Mathias Muwonge Kyazze

Mathias Muwonge Kyazze

How did you go about becoming an artist?

I was always interested in drawing geography maps and science drawings at primary school.  At home, I was involved in mat weaving and basket making. I started formal art classes in Senior One. Senyondwa Deus was then my best friend. He is now a lecturer at Kyambogo University. He inspired and encouraged me because he was a better drawer. I studied art through high school to attaining a Masters degree.  I am still practicing, and becoming more of an artist.

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What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on two major stained-glass design projects. One at St. Charles Lwanga Church in Ntinda near UNEB, and another at St. Joseph’s Church, Nansana.

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Where do you see your art practice in the next five years?

It is difficult to predict because it depends so much on the design commissions I receive. I the meantime, I am thinking of developing more into an art and design consultancy.

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Can you tell me about an artist whose life/work you really like?

Prof. G Kyeyune’s paintings and sculptures inspire me a lot. So do (Mary) Naita’s.

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What would you say in a short text message to an aspiring artist?

Getting to know what other artists have done, and written about in art and related disciplines, is key to shaping one’s art practice.

 

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Mathias Muwonge Kyazze can be reached at +256 777 912 122