Home » Artwork critiques, Issue 004 Dec ´09, Visual Art

Critic’s Pick: Rolands (Birutsya) Tibirusya

Posted by start 1 December 2009 No Comment

Henry Mzili Mujunga talks about Rolands (Birutsya) Tibirusya, a “live” artist whose ingenuity has brought philanthropic art to a refreshing new level in Uganda.

“Instead of complaining about it, he has frankly embraced the wave of celebrity that has engulfed the art world.”

By Henry Mzili Mujunga

When a young and here to fore unknown painter brings together two heads of state to sign his artwork, the reward ought to be instant recognition. He ought to become important by association. Rolands (Birutsya) Tibirusya, a “live” artist whose ingenuity has brought philanthropic art to a refreshing new level in Uganda, fits this profile and is getting the goodies.

It’s not so much the content of Birutsya’s paintings that makes them special, but the way he makes them—on stage before a live audience and usually for charity functions. The philanthropic nature of his projects points towards the relevancy of art as a source of income rather than simply as a vessel for meaning.

Birutsya seems deliberately to retain a naïve approach to content and technique in his work. While he keeps his subject matter ambiguously suggestive of the occasion being commemorated, he employs thin glazes and retains baby tints of red and yellow, creating what I would otherwise describe as bad art. But this drawback is always countered by the weight of the signature(s) his paintings bear: H.E Pierre Nkurunziza, president of Burundi signed one, as well as none other than our own H.E. Yoweri Museveni.

In a world where the importance of a thing is gauged as much—or more—by the status of its maker as its subject matter, Birutsya has pushed the goal posts even farther. Instead of complaining about it, he has frankly embraced the wave of celebrity that has engulfed the art world. The artist can gain what he lacks in clout by letting others, more “important” than him, sign his work. Talk of value addition! Brilliant!

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