Home » Artwork critiques, Issue 009 May '11, Visual Art

The new dawn of the MishMash Experience

Posted by start 28 April 2011 22 Comments

The Uganda art scene is increasingly getting more exciting and rather competitive with each passing month. After the successful launch of the Signature art exhibition – with its pomp and glamour – last year at the Serena Hotel, another artistic event, MishMash, has debuted on the art scene making art lovers and artists again very optimistic about art in Uganda.

By Dominic Muwanguzi

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MishMash is a concept hatched by two white expatriates – local art has a way of attracting the patronage of white expatriates irrevocably – Genevieve and Adam Williams, and entails blending all forms of art in one space spiced up with art classes for children, food and drinks, and lots of music.

At the opening of this space on Sunday March 26th, in the leafy neighborhoods of Ntinda a city suburb, the crowd which turned up was impressive in size. About a dozen artists exhibited their work – a blend of traditional and contemporary African art – to over one hundred and fifty guests who cheerfully kept on pacing up and down the corridors of the bungalow where the art pieces were hung.

The Contrast

Incidentally, for someone who had frequently visited art galleries in Kampala, it was easy to notice that most of these pieces had been exhibited before in these galleries. And also the fact that there was very little space provided for the art work at the venue.

In the latter case, the guests often crowded in one single room as they sought to appreciate a particular art piece. This obviously made it very uncomfortable for the guests and may have left a bitter taste in their mouth.

Artworks by Mark Kassi and Shira Ddamulira

However, this glitch in the presentation could be quelled in the subsequent exhibition since the directors promise monthly previews at the gallery. For a small fee members will be able to appreciate and buy the art in a more decent and private setting before the crowds beat them to it.  This will come with a bonus of a free glass of wine on the house!

There was also the element of juxtaposing old and new artists. In this case, Sanaa Gateja – an artist whose artistic repertoire spans over three decades – was able to exhibit with new bloods like Shira Ddamulira, Tindi Ronnie and Yusuf Ngula.  The moral resonance to this juxtaposition is to provide the guests with a diversity of Ugandan art – Sanaa Gateja works with paper beads and bark cloth and the youthful artists are known for their acrylics – and also create a learning experience for the fresh faces on the local art scene.

Artists from the Njovu Group. L-r: Arnold Birungi, Ronnie Tindi, Saad Lukwago, Mark Kassi, Damba Ismail, Jude Kasagga, Ngula Yusof, Damulira Shira.

More about juxtaposing; the inclusion of dance, music and fashion on the menu was a brilliant idea which would have gotten better had the organizers thought through it in a more detailed and organized manner.

Time again and again, we were caught off guard by the exhibit of fashion and music – save for Keiga Dance Troupe which put on an impressive show of dance and music – which were lukewarmly executed. The organizers next time ought to opt for a more organized presentation to befit the audience’s high expectations.

Performance by Keiga Dance Troupe

Save for that imperfection, the MishMash experience was documented in a colorful catalogue with the profile of each participating artist alongside the name of his paintings together with the specific prices. Though this is not a new concept – several other art events have had this arrangement – the difference here is the comprehensive information provide within the catalogue, enabling the guests to fully appreciate the artists’ work.

Director speaks

Adam’s analysis of this events gallery is that the art scene in Uganda is very exciting with different styles and techniques. Each artist has his or their identity and this makes them unique in a certain way.

“Ugandan artists are talented in their own way. It is not like in neighboring countries where you find almost all the artists sharing the same style. MishMash is dedicated to further this creativity among the local artists.”

But amidst this zeal, the directors will have to grapple with the challenge of consistency. Yes, the first event was well attended and everything must have played out well for the organizers. But it was quite obvious that the guests were anxious to know if this excellent presentation would be maintained next month and thereafter.

The other voice

One guest said to me he was excited about the concept of having all forms of art in one space, but still he was very eager to find out if the organizers would stick to the same menu or get even better next month.

“I will certainly return next month to savor the MishMash experience, because I do certainly love it. However, I will be also curious to know if the organizers have got more creative or not,” he told me.

Fashion by Stella Atal

Though this guest was rather modest in his remarks, another guest in his sixties was candid about his perception of the experience.

“I would have preferred if the organizers picked another name; something simplistic.  MishMash for me as a word seems to be rather complex and I hope that by trying to be complex they will not end up spoiling everything. Too many spices can spoil the soup,” he quipped.

And how did the artists feel about the MishMash?

Generally, all the artists felt elated about this new experience of appreciating art.

“I am very happy that MishMash has joined the local art scene in Uganda. This is going to be a challenge for the main stream gallery owners to step up their game lest they lose out on the market,” one artist – who preferred to remain anonymous – told me.

Another artist described it as a classic motivation of artists by integrating all the arts in one space.

“I have always believed that all forms of art are the same and need to be appreciated equally. Here, artists of different genres can learn from each other,” he told me.

Conclusion

In the midst of this euphoria, artists need to act discerningly.  It would be absurd, if artists only perceived the MishMash experience as another medium of selling their work and hence forget the incredible benefit of it being a forum to network and improve on their work.

Artwork by ... and Damba Ismael

The artist and directors need to step up their game here. My earnest wish is that next month we are presented with fresher images and it would be a plus if the gallery employed a curator who has a rich knowledge on Uganda contemporary art to sieve through the art work.

Nevertheless, this is an opportunity for all stakeholders in this lucrative industry to appreciate art on another level. Like the vision of the MishMash experience is: to bring together painting, sculpture, fashion, crafts, dance and photography and music – all elements that make up a rich tapestry of Uganda life – there is a minute likelihood for mediocrity and failure of this project.

As we anxiously wait for another edition of MishMash at the end of April, our heartfelt regards go to the organizers of this mini festival for a job well done, but moreso, to have delighted our senses with this new idea of promoting and selling Ugandan art.

Dominic Muwanguzi is a freelance art Journalist with a strong dedication to uplifting the visual arts in Uganda.
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22 Comments »

  • daudi Karungi said:

    Dominic, this is a good review of the event, i am interested in your opinion of the second one which took place on 1st May. That is if you attended it.

  • Adam Williams said:

    Thanks for a generally positive review Dominic. We appreciate the effort you have taken in reviewing and photographing our event.

    While I appreciate the need to give a balanced article, I do feel that there are a few inaccuracies, including a complete misquotation from me and a general undertone of unnecessary nit-picking. I never made any comments on the art scenes in neighbouring countries, nor made any comparison of them to Uganda’s art scene. I’ve not even been fortunate to experience much art from Uganda’s neighbours. Unfortunately, this misquote leads me to question to validity of the other quotes in your article. In addition, your assessment of the number of attendees (150) was very far from the actual number (over 500). Some simple fact checking is highly recommended.

    To be perfectly honest, I’m also not entirely sure if you completely understood what the event is trying to achieve. The main aim was to bring Ugandan art to a much wider audience than those that frequent the galleries in Kampala. The vast majority of the guests had never been to any of the galleries in Uganda before and were enjoying Ugandan art for the first time.

    We hoped to juxtapose a wide range of art forms, without introduction, creating a fluid mix of dance, paintings, sculpture, fashion and music, blended with craft, food and drink. We felt that the introduction of performances would have given the day too much of a formal and static feel so we decided on there being no performance stage and having the dancers and fashion parade intermingling with the crowd and beginning their performances spontaneously. Both of the organisers (my wife and I) were delighted with the result.

    I’m not sure of the need to go on about potential failure and slipping into mediocrity – unless you have a reason for suggesting this possibility, either based on as aspect of MishMash (which was not explained) or perhaps a personal desire for that outcome?

    Are you sure that the gallery was very uncomfortable for many guests and left a bitter taste in their mouths? Perhaps the reason for the crowd in the gallery was not that the space was so small but more the fact that MishMash attracted so many visitors. We had over 500 guests on the day. Surely that’s a positive thing for Ugandan art?

    It seems that the only information you collected on my wife and me is the colour of our skin. Surely there are other aspects of our background that are more relevant.

    Do you think you interviewed a good number of the attendees on the day? It seems that the people quoted in your article were not such a fair representation of those present.
    I do want to stress that my wife and I are more than happy to receive constructive criticism but please bear in mind that we are limited by our location and funds. We thought the event was an extremely successful one and enjoyed by the vast majority of attendees. Although the opening and closing paragraphs of your article are positive, the general undertone of negativity and pessimism doesn’t appear to achieve anything – apart from possibly stirring up conflicting arguments such as this one. In that respect you have succeeded. If you can suggest how we can find the funding to pay for a professional curator then we would be very interested to hear.

    I am also very interested to hear your opinion of the event on 1st May and would be very keen to hear the view points of other people on our first event in March.

    We have detailed plans for MishMash events until November 2011 and we can assure you that every effort has gone into ensuring that it does not become stagnant and slip into mediocrity. We wish you would have spoken to us about our future plans, ensured that all of your quotes were accurate, fact-checked your details, as well as finding out some information on our backgrounds before writing your article.

    We want to welcome everyone to MishMash on Sunday 29th May where, after two successful events, we will be introducing a few new and exciting twists.

    Warm regards to everyone involved in the Ugandan arts scene,

    Adam
    Director, MishMash

  • Dominic Muwanguzi said:

    I thank you for your comment Adam. As i told you earlier, i had no intention of watering down your efforts. In fact, we need such initiatives from people like you to further the local art scene.
    However, I insist that i was very accurate in my quotations ( you will defintely go into records as the first person i ever interviewed who alleges that i misquoted them).
    Still i believe that it is not very appropriate to state that the only information i got from you was the color of your skin. I personally sense a tone of racism here. Why??? I was not offensive to you by any maner and i wonder why you want to make this a personal fight. I was only writing what i saw that evening.
    I believe that if we all want to promote the art industry we must start with respecting one another.
    Otherwise, thank you for your efforts Sir.

  • Adam said:

    Thanks Dominic,

    I am not sure how you see my reply as ‘a personal fight’. I am merely pointing out simple points of fact. The misquotation cannot be disputed as I am the reputed source and would never have said such a thing, especially considering I have never even seen any art from any of Uganda’s neighbouring countries.

    It is clearly evident in the article that the colour of our skin is the only background information provided on either of the directors. What other background information did you write about either of us? I am certainly interested in your accusation that I am the one being racist.

    Dominic, please remember that as much as you are able to offer critique, you also have to be able to receive criticism for your work, especially from someone you have written about. Absolutely no disrespect (and certainly no racism!) intended – I merely wrote a factual response to your article.

    I do wonder at your vehement defence of misquoting me or anyone else. Perhaps you might reconsider this view in light of a letter to the New Vision dated 1st May, 2010 complaining of exactly this:

    It was not me – New Vision (Saturday, 1st May, 2010)
    “I would like to bring to your to the attention that I was shocked to read a story in The Weekender by Dominic Muwanguzi titled: “Does it cost an arm, leg to date them” dated April 23. I have never talked to Dominic Muwanguzi. If there is another Raymond Mukama, he should clarify on where he works. Raymond Mukama, Kampala”

    But all of these are minor details. Thank you, once again, for a thoughtful and certainly thought-provoking article.

    Adam

  • henry said:

    finally the great debate is rolling and gathering momentum. i am going to ensure it does not derail!

  • henry said:

    You Dominic, why did you call Adam and Genevieve White? apologize immediately 🙂
    otherwise, beautiful article man and great work Mishmash people.

  • Adam Williams said:

    Henry, let’s not go down that route. We have absolutely no issue with being called white. We are white. This issue is that the colour of our skin is the ONLY background information on either of us in the article. Surely there are other relevant facts about us that he should have obtained.

  • YesPse said:

    For an event that exceeded all expectations of the crowd (I say this as an attendee now of both MishMash events), the author here has spent a lot of time balancing out any praise with very many, very minor, and sometimes just plain silly criticisms. It would be much more interesting and substantive to have heard from artists about the work they had on display or to have interviewed someone who bought a piece they loved than to have included the odd quote from one individual who thought the two-syllable, alliterative name “MishMash” is maybe too complex for his taste. And somehow instead of representing an optimistic view about what such an event offers the art community and its growing followers in Uganda, the author shared his disjointed and baseless vision of a future where this event becomes repetitive or dull and where artists act absurdly by not taking full advantage of the opportunity to network and to grow in their art. Why not instead take the positive view and say that this is an exciting opportunity for artists to collaborate and expand their abilities? The mention of the organisers’ race twice in the first sentence is completely unnecessary and unprofessional, but at least it is a useful sign to readers that the report they are about to review is maybe more concerned with finding controversy in the very well-received and positive event rather than covering and promoting the developing art scene in Uganda.

  • Ro said:

    Dominic,hw would you feel if u were refered to as the black writer.as an artist i would prefer to be refered to as the ugandan artist.before mishmash was born,there were three active galleries in kampala.of these,2 are extremely controversial in the way they pick artists to exhibit, payment among others.i just wonder where the writers have been all this time since there is alot to critic .lets not prettend we all know the mess in the pioneer galleries lets write about too.dont be afraid.,Dominic

  • Ro said:

    Have the previous galleries promoted ugandan art or their own selfish interests?I honestly think the writers ought to have seriously criticed to older galleries before even writing anything about mishmash i haven’t read a negative criticism about any of the other galleries or their owners that has been published in a long time yet there is alot that could be criticised.all am asking for is a levelled ground where there is balanced criticism among all these so called art promoters.lets also expose the rest

  • Dominic Muwanguzi said:

    I have never worked for a newspaper called the weekender. You can cross- check and cross check again. My reputation as a journalist is to report and if at any point i am cornered into a personal fight, i will retreat as my proffesion dictates.
    Of course it is not news that journalists are looked down by people like Adam. Mister I have facts about you as being very unproffesional.
    The last mishmash almost flopped because of your inhumane treatment of artists. True or not true. I have the information but will not publish it.

  • kaddu said:

    Great effort MishMash!!! thanks for the experince! You introduced me to Ngula’s work. very promising.

  • Stephen said:

    Dominic,

    Rather than continually throwing mud at the director of MishMash why not answer some of his very valid questions about the following:

    1. the directors seemingly valid claims of you misquoting him
    2. writing inaccuracies in your article
    3. your unsupported suggestions of tones of racism in the director’s comments.

    After reading your comments I am not even certain that is was you who wrote the article itself. While, from a language point of view, the article is well written, your comments are full of grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and poor sentence structure that I would not expect from a young boy, let alone a professional writer.

    I attended the second MishMash and it was extremely far from being a flop. It was a resounding success. What are you aiming to achieve here Dominic?

  • thomasbj said:

    Stephen,

    As the editor of startjournal.org I would like to point out and assure you that this article is written by Dominic, the writer. Articles and comments will often seem different in terms of style and grammar, due to the fact that articles go through a process of editing whereas comments will not.

    Having said that, startjournal would like to encourage discussions, but would like to remind participants about some guidelines for discussion http://startjournal.org/about/how-to-participate-in-the-discussion-forums/.

    Thomas

  • Stephen said:

    Thanks for the response Thomas. Even before editing I would expect a writer’s written English to be far superior to the standard used in Dominic’s comments.

    I am still eager to hear Dominic’s response to my comments, although I suspect I never will as he seems to ignore anything that is too challenging to reply to.

  • Stephen said:

    By ‘editing’ do you actually mean rewriting?!

  • thomasbj said:

    Stephen.

    Well, editing does not necessarily mean rewriting per se. The process could include anything from spell and grammer check to guiding the writer in how to formulate and structure his/her arguments. We also focus on how to make the article reader-friendly online, since writers often have more experience in writing for print media.

    Startjournal is in an early stage when it comes to online publishing – so we are happy for any feedback on how we conduct our task. Feedback is the only way we can improve our product. In the same way, actually, that Startjournal’s role when it comes to the publishing of art critiques and user responses is a great way to help visual artists and other art promoters to improve their products.

    Like this article and the discussion following have shown, Startjournal can both provide some input to artists/art promoters, and give persons an opportunity to correct the views through an online discussion if they feel a review presents unfair remarks.

    Thomas

  • Adam Williams said:

    Here’s another perspective on the exact same event. My personal opinion is that this writer has understood what MishMash is all about. The review is also factually accurate.

    Review in The Eye Magazine (page 42, June-July 2011 edition)

    Where were you on Sunday 27th March and can you remember exactly what you were doing? Did the day just come and go like any other or is it tattooed indelibly into your mind? I remember the day very clearly because I was lucky enough to spend the day at the premier of Mishmash.

    At Mishmash, art, fashion, dance, music, craft and food collide and become an inspiring mix of creativity. This all took place in the beautiful setting of Genevieve and Adam’s garden, the visionaries and organisers behind Mishmash. Genevieve and Adam have always loved all things creative and when they moved into their new home in January, they had the inspiring idea of putting on a monthly mini arts festival in their garden. After working incredibly long hours and despite Genevieve being heavily pregnant, they pulled off the wonder of all wonders and Mishmash came to life.

    The hundreds of people who attended Mishmash were all treated to a feast of pure delight. We soaked up the visual feasts of art and sculpture in the Orange gallery from artists such as Sanaa Gatega and the artists from Njovu studio and sculptures from Ronex and Mukomba. The event was punctuated with energetic performances from the contemporary dance company “Keiga” who interacted with the audience as they weaved their way through the onlookers onto their grassy stage. We browsed in the craft stalls where original jewellery, bags, postcards, rugs, cushions and clothes were for sale. I loved “Kampala Fairs” multi coloured rugs and I have promised to treat myself to one of their beautiful rugs in the near future.

    Every great event has great food, and Equator Catering didn’t disappoint. We had Mishmash Breakfast. You can’t beat a decent cooked breakfast and the sausages were the best I’ve tasted in Kampala! There was a licensed bar where you could order cocktails, wine, beers, Bloody Marys and a wide range of hot and cold beverages.

    It was a real family event and the children were well catered for too. You could pay for face painting, balloon sculpting or even have a master art class with Ro – one of the featured artists – a great opportunity for all young, future budding artists. There was even a supervised play park area and the chance to experience a magical swing hung from a huge imposing tree. Our children spent hours flying through the air on it.

    There was also a Giant Jenga game you could play with. The game became a visual and dramatic spectacle in its own right, taking on a life of its own. The players transformed into actors in this tense game as the people watching became an entranced audience, as the players carefully slid the wooden blocks out one by one, until the final act when the whole thing finally came tumbling down.

    Later in the day the garden naturally transformed itself into a catwalk as models showcased Stella Atal’s fashion. After dark, as the fire burned and lights magically lit up the trees, KADS gave a brilliant sneak preview of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”.
    The day was relaxing, friendly and inspiring. Genevieve and Adam have definitely brought a creative gift for the people of Kampala. Mishmash is manna sent from heaven and will definitely bring sustenance for your soul.

    One of the things we miss about living in the United Kingdom, and Wales in particular, is the accessibility to a wide array of arts. Living near one of the UK’s most cosmopolitan and beautiful cities, Cardiff, we were really spoilt for choice. Before we moved to Kampala last year we were frequent visitors to Cardiff’s huge range of art events which enabled us to enjoy innovative theatre, dance, photography, street art, and community art festivals.

    Kampala on the other hand really does lack the necessary facilities, opportunities and the platform for the creative artists to develop and flourish. Until now!
    Review by Keren Riley

    Don’t miss the chance to experience something truly beautiful when the MishMash’s monthly event rolls around again. On either the last Sunday or Saturday of every month, MishMash will open its doors and welcome you to enjoy an explosive day of art, live music and dance.

  • Adam Williams said:

    Here’s another review of MishMash – this time of the June event.

    http://rileysinuganda.blogspot.com/2011/06/mishmash-june.html

  • Annonymous said:

    Difficult to stay grounded and factual with reviews. Especially Art should allow different perceptions and opinions. If something is good it speaks for itself, and it doesn’t need any justification, and especially not the posting of other reviews…. That should also speak for itself….the EGO is powerful, isn’t it, guys. Thanks, Thomas, for trying to keep it in place.

  • Raymond said:

    Oh, Adam Williams! What was the posting of other reviews trying to achieve? Take the criticism, live with it as a negative review among many other “positive” one. Otherwise, that was plain silly!

  • George said:

    I wonder what kind of review you would get right now Mr Williams, in the wake of your “racism” issues? You really had to dig deep and correct a writer with the really long tirade? then you posted a link to some reviews of your establishment?

    I went through the same discriminatory/racist treatment during the Jane Bussman Show, which I was actually covering. Still I kept quiet about the racist incident as just a one off. Guess I was wrong. You went and pissed off some really known journalists who actually do more for art than your establishment does….I think you and your wife Genevieve just suck with journalists. Get a PR! And BY THE WAY, YOU ARE NOT THE BEST THING THAT HAPPENED TO UGANDAN ARTISTS!