Tag Archives: Kampala

AtWork_Kampala 2015: an alternative learning environment

On Buziga hill, Kampala, Uganda, I walked through a small metal gate into a beautiful, large garden, with towering trees. A refreshing breeze blew up the hill, calming relief after the heat in Kampala traffic. I took my shoes off, raised my hands to receive the breeze, and run down the steep, grassy hill. Artist George Kyeyune was my guide to this hidden gem, Maisha Film Gardens, a project by film maker Mira Nair and Professor Mahmood Mamdani. Half way down the hill, we joined a small group in a tree shade. AtWork_Kampala Workshop for young artists and curators was in progress.

Mira Nair and others at workshop in Maisha Film Gardens

Mira Nair and others at workshop in Maisha Film Gardens

The group of about twenty-four was seated in a circle on low round enga stools. Curator Simon Njami, in his trademark dark glasses, was speaking. He smiled. Welcomed us. This informal learning environment is the brainchild of Njami. Lettera27, an Italian foundation supporting the right to literacy, education, and access to knowledge and information, supports these workshops, in collaboration with Moleskine®, an Italian company that produces notebooks, and related paper products. This iteration in Kampala was hosted by Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Arts, Makerere Art Gallery / Institute of Heritage Conservation and Restoration, and Maisha Foundation. Curator Katrin Peters-Klaphake’s superior organizational skills ensured the smooth running of this weeklong workshop. I knew many of the participants either as former students at Makerere University Art School, artists, or curators with whom I have collaborated on various projects. Sculptor Lilian Nabulime was part of the circle. Nabulime and Kyeyune were the facilitators of this small alternative learning environment.
Simon Njami speaking to workshop participants at Makerere

Simon Njami speaking to workshop participants at Makerere

Katrin Peters-Klaphake speaking at Makerere Art Gallery

Katrin Peters-Klaphake speaking at Makerere Art Gallery

The AtWork workshop model uses the context of the place where it will happen, taking issues relevant locally as a starting point for thoughts, discussions, and idea sharing. In Kampala, the theme, ‘Should I take my shoes off?’ was arrived at when two schoolgirls visited the Makerere Art Gallery, and upon seeing a clean, quiet space, asked if they needed to remove their shoes before entry. As a symbol of respect and immaculate cleanliness, sacred places like houses of worship are entered barefoot, shedding distractions and dirt at the threshold. This was an apt starting point, for this kind of schoolgirl uncertainty is often encountered in young people embarking on a career in any field. Paradoxically, there exists a boldness, certainty, and willingness to tackle challenging situations, perhaps born of youthful confidence.

Some Participants

Joseph Adriko at work

Joseph Adriko at work

Joseph Adriko attended the AtWork Kampala workshop. He was one of my most illustrious students at the Makerere Art School in 2009. When his studies were interrupted by reasons beyond his control, Adriko set up a studio-cum-gallery, Adriko Arts, in his hometown Arua in Northern Uganda. Occasionally he travels to Kampala to feel the pulse of the varied art genres abundant in the city. He was delighted, expanded, and yet perplexed as a participant of the workshop. He chose to explore the confluence of art, architecture, and theatre.

Violet Nantume presenting her work

Violet Nantume presenting her work

Violet Nantume, another participant, was also my student at Makerere Art School. She juggles art making with curating. Nantume was one of four curators for KLA ART 014 – Kampala Contemporary Art Festival. Over time, her administrative and curatorial duties overshadowed her art making. She decided to register as an artist for the AtWork workshop in order to have an unencumbered opportunity to make art again. Nantume is a confident go-getter, and articulate speaker who has been accepted on the Masters in Curatorial Studies program at Bard College, New York. Her idea for the workshop was to challenge accepted social norms, suggesting possibilities of departure.
Leilah Babirye (left) in discussion with Robinah Nansubuga (right)

Leilah Babirye (left) in discussion with Robinah Nansubuga (right)

Another participant, Robinah Nansubuga, on the other hand, is not a Makerere graduate, but has worked with many private galleries, as well as 32° East and has curated exhibitions in Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda, including as curatorial team member of KLA ART 014. Her locally acclaimed monthly discussion event Ekyoto is sought-after. She decided to revisit a failed application to the Young Curators’ Workshop at the Berlin Biennale, trying to understand why it was rejected, and what it takes to be a good writer. Nansubuga is an eager learner, and full of vitality. She joined the workshop as a curator.

Adriko, Nantume, and Nansubuga are resourceful and passionate young individuals who are shining stars in the arts. They are ready to be challenged, and willing to emerge as different or perhaps better artists and curators.

Innovative Pedagogical Conditions

Event–based learning
This workshop is remembered as a special occasion, because as a learning environment, it spanned only a few days. It enabled face-to-face encounters between renowned experts, nationally acclaimed facilitators, and young participants. As a small group, it provided access to experienced persons in a way that would not be possible through symposia or lectures. Participants got to know each other intimately, and were therefore able to share resources and opportunities. The event nature of the workshop, and the specific Moleskine® notebooks as material, gave participants a concrete goal to work towards, in a specific timeframe. This focused their attention in critical discussions, working, and progressive reflection. The process was steeped in intense, and metamorphosing emotions, for feedback was instantaneous, and response just as quick. Although it was a small group process, personal responsibility for learning was emphasized. As Nansubuga posted on her Facebook page on February 24 at 10:24pm, “How far we can go is our own making”.

AtWork Kampala is one of the recent events in Uganda, but there exist precedents in the workshop-based learning environment. Rose Namubiru Kirumira’s (2008) doctoral research focusing on workshops as formative spaces for artists, presents Triangle Artists’ Workshops as a case study. An article based on the same research co-authored with Sidney Littlefield Kasfir is published in African Art and Agency in the Workshop (2013). The Triangle Artists’ Workshops initiated by British collector Robert Loder and American sculptor Anthony Caro in 1982 have spread across continents. Uganda hosted one in Namasagali College, later growing into Ngoma workshops. The Triangle workshops typically last two weeks, take place in rural settings, and offer an experimental space for artists to work without academic or economic pressure. Other workshops have been run in Uganda for practical skills exchange by organizations and individuals like Uganda Visual Artists’ and Designers’ Association, 32° East, Weaverbird studios and Sanaa Gateja. They are based on a similar idea of a short time span, and finding community with others, while removed from quotidian distractions. Other workshops abound on the continent. Nantume participated in Asiko 2013 in Accra, Ghana, where she reported, “During the curatorial session, I noted that curatorship was beyond organizing a successful exhibition but critical analysis and writing that Bisi believed underpinned an argument that one puts across.” Also in 2013, Nansubuga attended the Curatorial Intensive developed by Independent Curators International (ICI) and the Bag Factory Artists’ Studios in Johannesburg, South Africa.

AtWork workshop is unique in that it alters the materials at hand, with a strong focus on the critical thought processes leading up to making an object, planning an exhibition, or writing a text.

Circular Sitting
Sitting in a circle signified a level playing field for all participants. With a cursory glance, one could not tell between facilitator and participant. This contrasts with formal education structures where hierarchy is unmistakeable. A teacher stands at the front of a classroom, authoritatively addressing students who are seated, quietly listening. In my observation, circular seating appears to have set the scene for an egalitarian community in the workshop where the facilitators and Njami were physically, and perhaps psychologically, seen as less superior, leading to ease in communication. It took great courage for Nabulime and Kyeyune to modify their accustomed superior role as lecturers, to become helpers and learners. To be vulnerable. To let budding artists and curators take centre stage. To set them free, to think, to question, to work through their visions. To communicate these visions.

This can be a mammoth step for learners too, as I experienced upon joining the Masters in Curating at Goldsmiths, University of London. Classes were held in a large well-lit room with no desks, rather chairs in a circle, with our tutors. On the first day, I could not tell who was who. Having received all my previous education in Uganda, I was accustomed to a top-down singular form of authority. Speaking when called upon. Not contradicting.

Modes of Address
Goldsmiths’ MA Curating course tutors Anna Harding and Tim Brennan, encouraged us to address them by first names. This was hard to abide by, for after years of conditioning that respect demanded a prefix and a surname, I could not easily bring myself to say, ‘Excuse me please, Anna. I have an alternative idea’. During the AtWork_Kampala workshop, I observed participants struggle with Mr. Simon, and Dr. Kyeyune, and Dr. Lilian. At the end they managed to drop the Mr. for Simon, but could not shake the long accustomed Dr. for the facilitators, who were also their lectures. Modes of address in a particular setting may encourage or deter open and inclusive discussions. They need attention in planning. Keen awareness as they evolve.

Lilian Nabulime starting her performance at the workshop presentations in Makerere Art Gallery

Lilian Nabulime starting her performance at the workshop presentations in Makerere Art Gallery

George Kyeyune reviewing past AtWork publication

George Kyeyune reviewing past AtWork publication

Instructional Methods and Materials

participants continue discussions over tea break

participants continue discussions over tea break

The methodological orientation of this workshop was to foreground the participants who presented their ideas, got feedback, engaged in critical thinking and discussions, worked and reworked them, interspersed with talks and examples of other concerns in the arts. The participants’ artistic and curatorial stances drew on varied genres such as poetry, theatre, literature, visual arts, reportage, and film. Perhaps as a stance of ethnic belonging, or an emerging confrontation with post-coloniality, participants started off with long held generalizations about identity of the ‘we’, ‘our culture forbids’, ‘my people believe’ variety. Njami listened to the participants’ ideas, and then critiqued their confident pronouncements on ‘we’ and ‘them’ binaries. On identity. With a stringent stance, which was often uncomfortable for the recipients, he encouraged taking stock of skills, a breadth of reading, self-reflection, and confronting one’s long held prejudices. With Njami’s counter positions, they were confronted with the modernist concept of an artist as an individual critical thinker and creator.

Participants responded with a mix of emotions from fear and disillusionment, to tentative appreciation and determination. They worked in smaller groups, and received one-on-one guidance. It was a consultative process where notions of becoming artists and curators, power relations, cultural production and mediation, were discussed alongside practical issues surrounding art making. The proximity of curators and artists in the same learning environment appears to have demystified each other’s practice. The process of open-space working rather than solo studio practice, and the public presentation of ideas and works in progress enabled critical reviews, and learning.

Each participant received two small notebooks: one for sketching, the other for final work. Text, sketches, material samples started to take shape. Quiet conversations, and solo introspection were prevalent at this stage. For some, a radical form of (re) shaping their identity commenced. Participants were considering their own experiential authority, the authority of the facilitators, and the authority of their chosen discipline. AtWork workshop offered a spread out, shared, form of authority, being not only from the facilitator figures, but also how their use of authority, connected with, and sometimes alienated participants. The facilitators and participants attempted to negotiate the impact on each other of their intersecting positions in the workshop. The initial anxiety and perplexity seems to have led to soul-searching and meaningful learning.

Dialectical dilemma
Although Simon Njami discourses from his own literary values, the participants attempted to weave his ideas with their own agency through references to indigenous cultures. The process of self-identification that compelled these young participants to refer to the cultural values of ‘we’ rather than ‘I’ is a valid one too, since the collective consciousness is still strong in their milieu. I wonder, is a locally situated, globally aware, mode of cultural production based on ‘ffe’ rather that ‘nze’ not possible anymore? Where does one situate Dr. Angelo Kakande’s email signature, one rooted in the okulanya tradition of the Baganda? Could it be a consciousness that situates him in a familial continuum? Some of the participants used Njami’s challenging stance as a springboard to reassess the convergences and deviations between the knowledge they hold unquestioningly, and the one he was proposing. A continuation of this conversation promises to be an exciting encounter of multiplicities. A frisson in the community. A volcano brewing.

Musajja wa Kabaka; musajja muganda.
Muzzukulu wa Gabulyeri Ttakalirya.
Muzzukulu wa Njala Egobye.
Ava mu lunyiriri lwa Nakatalanga Nkoola.
Asibuka mu mutuba gwa Kalungi e Busere.
Ava mu ssiga lya Kasule e Buwembo.
Yeddira ngeye; akabbiro kkunguvvu.
Kasujja e Busujja ye mukulu w’ekika kye.

Tatuula asuulumba busuulumbi
Ttutu lifumita likyali tto bwe likula lifuuka lusenke.

How did the AtWork_Kampala workshop relate to Uganda’s economic conditions where one participant demanded a sitting allowance, just like politicians? How will artists express themselves in a society where their role is relegated to entertainment? Where will curators carve a space when curating as a practice is little understood? What is the significance of this workshop on art production, mediation, and consumption when the market, as a major driving force for informing stylistic decisions in Uganda, is not directly discussed? Will participants be agents of pedagogical reform? Will this result in radical change? Change? No change?

Nabulime feels that this kind of intensive, thought-provoking engagement is imperative for lecturers. Nantume’s art project challenged social constructions of gender-circumscribed behaviour, revealing biases in society’s expectations; perhaps hers is a much-needed cultural protest in Uganda. Nantume is raising funds to take her Masters at Bard College, while assisting on the Queen of Katwe film by Mira Nair. Adriko incorporates his mother’s theatrical performances, the circular design of traditional meeting places, with the architecture of theatre to alter its orientation. Adriko’s art must needs step away from the ubiquitous woman with a baby strapped on her back, as he foregrounds ideas, history and possibilities for his practice. Nansubuga has engaged a writing coach, is continuing her writing project, and curating an exhibition for May 2015.

Through the intergenerational and duo-location dialogue, participants appear to have opened themselves to new ways of thinking, working, and being. An elastic conversation begun through discussion, reading, writing and making, just like the elastic that holds together a Moleskine® notebook. It is imperative that we reflect on how the discursive space, and materiality of different art forms might enable experimentation. Might give room to disparate ways of knowing. To consider what can be learned though creative processes, we might consider letting go of the perpetual focus on finished text or object. Having said that, do not miss the exhibition of the participants’ projects at Makerere Art Gallery from 19th March 2015 to 11th April 2015.

Makerere Art Gallery / MIHCR

Makerere Art Gallery / MIHCR

I wait. Hunched.
Time passes.
Go. Witness. Keep your shoes on. Return.
Tell us about it. Guard the secrets. Conversations endure.


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

Daudi Karungi of Afriart Gallery, Kampala

On the afternoon of Wednesday 20th November 2013, I visited Daudi Karungi in his office tucked above his gallery Afriart off Kira road in Kamwokya, next door to The Hub Kampala, across the road from Bayimba Cultural Foundation, and a few houses from Tagaframe. One might call this a small arts district. He was busy typing away at his laptop but happily gave me a few minutes for conversation before heading out for lunch.

This is how it went. By Margaret Nagawa

Daudi Karungi. Photo: Margaret Nagawa

Daudi Karungi. Photo: Margaret Nagawa

How did you go about becoming an artist?

I finished art school and opened a gallery. So, I did not make art at the beginning. I needed this art gallery. It was a necessity. And without it I wouldn’t survive as an artist. Meaning that if I didn’t do it, I am sure half the artists active now wouldn’t be artists today. I think 80% of the artists working today managed because of my effort and the gallery. Maybe we would have different artists.  I spent about 3 years being a gallerist exhibiting other artists, and learning how things are done in the gallery business, and then I embarked on my own art making and had my first show after about 4 years. I have since had regular exhibitions.

I went to art school. I trained to be an artist. I wanted to be an artist. But when the time came for me to be one, there was no infrastructure to be one. So I put everything on hold, made a business out of the gallery, which has sustained us over the last 11 years.

Afriart Gallery, Kampala. Photo: Margaret Nagawa

Afriart Gallery, Kampala. Photo: Margaret Nagawa

Who helped you along the way, and how?

My grandfather, the late James Mulwana, gave me something more precious than anything anybody can get. When I decided to open a gallery, I went to him and said I needed a big space to rent. I had a business plan and it was supposed to pay for itself. He gave me a building he had in Lugogo UMA Show Grounds that was not being used because it used to flood every time there was a heavy down pour. Nobody wanted to rent it. For a gallery space I only needed the walls. So the flooding would not be a big problem. It is a very beautiful building that was sort of designed as a gallery. I remember, my cousin, a graphic designer was using the top floor, and I worked with him on 3D design. The reason he was not using the ground floor is because of the flooding. Somebody else had used it as a furniture shop in the past and a lot of his furniture got destroyed in a flood. It was empty then.

I also needed a guest list. He was the Thai Consul in Uganda then. He was surprised that all I wanted was a guest list, so he gave me a guest list. I organized that first show with the guys I was with at University. I designed the invite and we sent out about 500 invitations. This was 10th November 2002. I was 21. There was a lot of promise in this very young 21-year-old Daudi. Many people came, my relatives, people like art collector Saihou Saidy, the then German Ambassador and collector Klaus Holderbaum; the EU ambassador then Sigurd Illing, came too and we became very good friends.

I worked in the gallery alone. I would sit there. Sometimes I had to run errands in town and then hurry back to open. I was consistent and very aggressive, I have always been. I gradually developed friendships. Working relationships whereby I offer a service, people like my service and we grow together. I bond strongly, and often very strategically, with ambassadors and other people interested in the arts. I have hosted them at my house for lunch or dinner, or they have hosted me. My grandfather helped me at the beginning, but I have done a lot of work myself since then.

James Mulwana. Photo: New Vision

James Mulwana. Photo: New Vision 

With regard to audiences, whom would you wish to see your work?

My primary desired viewer is the Ugandan middle class, which means current middle class and upcoming middle class. That is why this year, and for the next 10 years, Afriart, via my efforts, and myself is geared towards nurturing a local audience and clientele. If you notice, the activities that I am going to do, including art rentals, are geared towards Ugandans but without killing the integrity of the art. The originals will still be 1,000.00 dollars, for example, but the reproductions will be about 100,000 thousand shillings. That way the work goes out to more people. I think this will increase the value of art and also people’s appreciation of the art.

Afriart Art rental and Purchase. Photo: www.afriartgallery.org

Afriart Art rental and Purchase. Photo: http://www.afriartgallery.org


Afriart affordable wearable art. Photo: Margaret Nagawa

Afriart affordable wearable art. Photo: Margaret Nagawa

You are using photography now. Is that your new approach?

I majored in photography at the university but I never really used it because I didn’t really know how. I don’t believe that you take a picture with your camera and then go and sell it. That is why photojournalists are the best for that because they take a picture at the right time, tell a story, and get paid for it; often because it won’t happen again. A picture can be taken by anyone with the right light, technique and tools.

With art photography, over the last 11 years I have been trying to figure out how to use it in a unique way in contemporary art.  I have been painting and doing other things in the meantime. I have used photography this time and what inspired it is an interest in the technique: photography as a source, the transfer process of photography onto canvas, and then the mixed media with painting.

Daudi Karungi, Bald and Beautiful, 2013. Photo: Margaret Nagawa

Daudi Karungi, Bald and Beautiful, 2013. Photo: Margaret Nagawa

What are you working on at the moment?

I am not really interested in realistic representations. If I want to see Kampala I go see it, I want to see New York, I go there, the sand, the desert, whatever. That is why I am using mannequins and not real people in the artworks you see in this exhibition. I walk in the streets of Kampala and take photographs of the mannequins in clothing shops. I then work with these images.

Latest Things, Daudi Karungi & Paul Ndema exhibition, Afriart Gallery, Kampala, November 2013. Photo: Margaret Nagawa

Latest Things, Daudi Karungi & Paul Ndema exhibition, Afriart Gallery, Kampala, November 2013. Photo: Margaret Nagawa

Do you think you are going to be working this way in the near future?

Yes. I am going to draw my subjects from photography. I was in Mombasa recently and took very nice photographs of Fort Jesus. I was interested in the architecture. I am looking forward to working with these images and creating layers with paint and glue. I am looking forward to this process.

Latest Things, Daudi Karungi & Paul Ndema exhibition, Afriart Gallery, Kampala, November 2013. Photo: Margaret Nagawa

Latest Things, Daudi Karungi & Paul Ndema exhibition, Afriart Gallery, Kampala, November 2013. Photo: Margaret Nagawa

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

I work very closely with Paul Ndema and Mzili. In the closeness we have, we discuss art and we see art. We push ourselves to the boundaries whereby we create amazing stuff. We always say that our work might not be understood because it is new. It is so new that people sometimes enter the gallery, and they are amazed. Then they go upstairs and buy a selling artist, something familiar and comfortable.

With Paul and Henry when I go to their studios and see something really awesome, it drives me to make what I make next. So apart from these two artists, I don’t know any other whose work inspires me. But I am inspired a lot by creating something new, something avant-garde, something we haven’t seen but we have to see. I can’t say Picasso or whatever. I mean, there are some good artists like Ntensibe, and I can see how he inspires people like Paul Ndema. I like his work. I also like David Kigozi.

Upstairs in Afriart Gallery. Photo: Margaret Nagawa

Upstairs in Afriart Gallery. Photo: Margaret Nagawa

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

I think a young artist should work hard, be their own competition, and be self-critical.

Afriart Gallery.  Photo: Margaret Nagawa

Afriart Gallery. Photo: Margaret Nagawa



Henry Mzili Mujunga


Henry Mzili Mujunga. Photo by Petra Behnsen

1. How did you go about becoming an artist?


Well, I have always had interest in drawing. When I was a little boy, I used to have this obsession with tracing over my shadow with a piece of charcoal. I remember also squatting in the mud under the scotching sun molding tiny bricks with a match box to make tiny houses with streets and all. I also used to make elaborate Honda civic cars from wire. In the early 80s when I was in primary school, I had a friend with whom we would sneak into the local cinema to watch Bruce Lee movies. After which we would make numerous pencil drawings of men in white kung fu suits doing the flying kick!  When I got to secondary school I was mainly interested in designing skyscrapers. In fact I though I would be an architect one day!

Well, like it turned out I was always doing well in the art room and by the time I sat for my A levels, I was one of the few students who new for sure what they were going to do at the university!

Back to the question as to why I decided to become an artist. I guess I was born one, but if you are asking as to when I consciously took on the profession, I would say that it was more of a Saul to Paul affair! You see, after getting my Bachelors in fine arts degree, I resorted to shoving for a living as a bouncer for an events organizing company in Kampala. They used to organize shows for international musicians performing in Kampala. Quite often we were not paid for our services as bouncers, so we would skim off some cream at the entrance by reselling tickets. This way I would support my rather extravagant life style.  It so happened that while I was at it one day, the boss got wind of my dishonesty and ordered a couple of police officers to arrest me. While I was in the small cell awaiting my fate, it suddenly occurred to me that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Here I was a guy trained to make beautiful artwork, locked up in a cell for doing a job of a gateman poorly!

I talked (rather bribed) my way out of police custody and have never looked back since.

2.   Who helped you along the way? How?

What? Who what? I have helped many along the way! I am grateful to my art professors Ssengendo and Nnaggenda for introducing me to the elements and practice of art. To Maria Fischer and Daudi Karungi, who supported through their galleries.

Afriart Gallery

Daudi Karungi’s Afriart Gallery, Kampala, Uganda


3.   What are you working on at the moment?

I am actively involved in the holistic development of Ugandan art. I have been working with Kampala arts trust (KART) and Start journal. I am actively involved in the programs of the pan African circle of artists (PACA) where discussion, exposure (through tours of Africa) and publishing are our major pursuit. Currently I am doing installations using found objects of significant historical value such as my hair, cow’s teeth and bits of plastic. I guess in a way I am trying to catalogue a decaying civilization!

Buyonjo Balls Participatory Project. Recyling polythene bags into balls.

Buyonjo Balls Participatory Project. Recyling polythene bags into balls, 2013 

4.   Who would you like to engage with your work?


To be sincere I work for the West! You see it is my notion that the contemporary visual artist is the last frontier of the colonial labor prejudice. We produce stuff which is quite often meaningless to our local societies. I sell most if not all my work to Western collectors, mainly expatriates and tourists. The sources that inform my style and techniques are drawn from the European art tradition.  In fact of late I am doing stuff that could have direct appeal to key collectors and galleries in Europe and America.

However, as a patriotic pan-African, I would like to produce work for the indigenous folks.

I would like to be collected by rich African entrepreneurs, for instance. But the problem is how to get them interested in my paintings other than the cheap posters of Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ that they buy from museum shops during their regular visits to Europe.

On the issue of subject matter, we in Africa are lucky to have a rich material culture. So we do not have to scatter helter-skelter stealing other people’s ideas.

However, I would like to be clear that much as I am critical of my current art market, I would not be this bitter if I were to be accepted by galleries in the West which represent the market for which I was trained to produce art.

art opening at Makerere Art Gallery, December 2009

art opening at Makerere Art Gallery, December 2009


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

Perhaps I admire other artists’ work more than I should. I am always appreciative of a job well done in art. It does not matter who has done it!

I have had phases of influence in my work. Picasso and Gauguin were my favorite in college especially when I discovered that they borrowed a lot from African tribal art. Then I got deeply involved with the work of Stephen Kasumba, a Ugandan painter. But my ultimate passion is a fusion of Jackson Pollock, Gustav Klimt, Chris Ofili and Jean Basquiat: You see I like to splash and decorate while searching for beauty in ugliness!

Steven Kasumba, 2003

Steven Kasumba, 2003. Collection: Brent Wolff 

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

I have no doubt in my mind that African art rules! It has done so since Picasso stumbled upon it in the early 20th century. However, the world has been negligent of this fact and attributed everything to the European artists. I am glad that the world today is rediscovering African art. There are a lot of modern, innovative and competitive artists on the continent today. I believe that with globalization, we in Africa are well aware of everything going on in the art world except in the auction houses. We know how artists in Europe and America work because we have traveled to their lands through residences and other exchange programs. We believe that we storm the art market when we force the major collectors to abandon the auction houses and exclusive galleries by flooding the streets of Europe and America with masterpieces from Africa (that is if China does not get there first!). 

Buyonjo Balls Participatory Project

Buyonjo Balls Participatory Project, LABA! Art Festival, Kampala, 2013

Afriart at the Laba! festival


Afriart booth at the Laba! festival, May 25th 2013

LABA! Street Festival 2013 Kampala

Collin Sekajugo's Secolliville performance

Collin Sekajugo’s Secolliville performance

Collin Sekajugo’s Secolliville Public Art Performance Space

Collin Sekajugo's Secolliville Public Art Performance Space

Collin Sekajugo performing at the LABA! Street festival, Kampala, 25 May 2013