American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

American Visionary Art Museum

American Visionary Art Museum

This is one of the most pleasurable museums I have visited. Our children loved it even before entering. We strolled to it in a drizzle on Federal Hill. As we turned a corner the afternoon light caught the mosaic on the outside and a gentle wind activated the kinetic sculpture outside. We were hooked! Down the hill we run! Mikka excitedly expounded on kinetic art, which he studied based on Alexander Calder’s art in his last semester, third grade at the International Community School of Addis Ababa. The toothbrush doormat at the entrance was another exciting piece. Mikka wished it had toothpaste too … a gooey entrance suitable for an imaginative 9 year old. Then the fun begun! But why should I tell you more? Just go! Visit this palace of invention!

On another tangent, I draw a parallel between this museum’s name: American Visionary Art Museum, and the Visionary Africa: Art at work itinerant exhibitions that toured cities in Africa from 2011 to 2012, from Cairo to Harare, Ouagadougou to Addis Ababa. The versatility and inventiveness exhibited in both the museum and the exhibitions is astounding. Wouldn’t it be interesting to initiate a conversation between these geographical boundaries? a conversation about unity in the midst of such diversity?

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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


Dr. Venny Nakazibwe: Luminary of art education

Dr. Venny Nakazibwe, Dean MTSIFA

Dr. Venny Nakazibwe, Dean MTSIFA

Dr. Venny Nakazibwe is the Dean of  Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Arts (MTSIFA), College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT), Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda. Dr. Venny,  as she is widely known, is a joyous and efficient leader. In 2005 she attained her PhD from Middlesex University, London, United Kingdom. Her thesis title was Bark-cloth of the Baganda People of Southern Uganda: a Record of Continuity and Change from the Late-Eighteenth Century to the Early Twenty-First Century and it won the Roy Sieber Dissertation Award, ACASA, in 2007. Her time as Dean of MTSIFA has seen increased participation in international artistic engagement through student and lecturer exchanges, art exhibitions, conferences, seminars and workshops. These have brought together not only professional artists and educators, but also Ugandan artisans with a focus on textiles and health. 


Henry Kasujja: Luminary of Art Education

Henry Kasujja, Head of Art Department, St. Henry's College Kitovu

Henry Kasujja, Head of Art Department, St. Henry’s College Kitovu

Mr. Henry Kasujja, is an art teacher and Head of the Art Department at St. Henry’s College, Kitovu, Masaka District, Uganda. He was educated at the Institute of Teacher Education, Kyambogo, (now Kyambogo University), a well respected institution for art educators. He has drive, passion and commitment to his work, and above all a fondness for his students. When we met in mid-November 2013, his Senior Four students had completed their exams and were leaving campus. Many of these students sought him out to thank him and say their farewells, as we walked in the beautiful school grounds of mature trees, football fields, basketball courts, and above all sculptures. It is an enviable environment for any secondary school student.

Old Boys of Kitovu include art luminaries like Joseph Ntensibe, the late Fabian Kamulu Mpagi, Joseph Kivubiro Tabawebbula, Elly Tumwine, and John Bosco Kanuge. The deceased artist Francis Musangogwantamu taught here in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He built a strong foundation in the art department as evidenced in the many practicing artists he taught, as well as the sculptures on the school campus, in the Kitovu Catholic diocese grounds, Masaka District, and in Villa Maria Parish cathedral grounds in Kalungu District. Kasujja continues this legacy. How appropriate for a Henry to be teaching at St. Henry’s!

One of the art rooms at St. Henry's College Kitovu

One of the art rooms at St. Henry’s College Kitovu

 

Students studying in the Founders' Park, St. Henry's College Kitovu

Students studying in the Founders’ Park, St. Henry’s College Kitovu

 

Alex Drani, 1970. A warm welcome as one enters St. Henry's College Kitovu.

Alex Drani, 1970. A warm welcome as one enters St. Henry’s College Kitovu.

Henry Kasujja, Head of Art Department, St. Henry's College Kitovu

Henry Kasujja, Head of Art Department, St. Henry’s College Kitovu