Home » Artwork critiques, Issue 015 Dec '11, Visual Art

Kyeyune’s The Kampala I Will Always Come Back To: Sanitised Economic Injustices and the Risk of Propaganda

Posted by start 29 November 2011 20 Comments
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

On 14 October 2011 George William Kyeyune mounted his ‘The Kampala I Will Always Come Back To’. The exhibition showcased the artist’s recent paintings representing the hard sociopolitical struggles that the man/woman on the streets of Kampala goes through.

Ugandan artist George W. Kyeyune, 2011. Photo by Thomas Bjørnskau.

In this article I show and argue that as representations of life in Kampala, Kyeyune’s paintings are not portraits of individuals or groups. They are in the first place art. In the second, they are sanitised versions of reality intended to suit middle class and tourist aesthetic tastes. In the third place, they carry the risks of pandering to state propaganda.

By Angelo Kakande (F.J.)

Kyeyune is a prolific painter and sculptor. He graduated from the Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Arts (MTSIFA) with a Bachelor of Arts Fine Art degree in 1984.

George Kyeyune, Jesus Writing in the Sand, 1983, oil on canvas

Available evidence suggests that by the time he was in the second year of his undergraduate programme, Kyeyune had mastered the skill and expressionist style we see in his exhibition at Afriart Gallery.

For example, he had done his En Route from Mbale (1983), Mbale Trip (1983) and Suffering (1983). Three works which demonstrate the artist’s expressionist style and attention to emotion and form. He also did his Jesus Writing in the Sand (1983), a powerful painting in which he demonstrated his mastery of skill and understanding of colour theory.

The artist has lost some of the strength and control of media we see in these early works. First, and specifically in painting, at some point he resorted to using acrylics. He himself has conceded that acrylics are cheap and easy-to-handle. However, they have a kind of dryness which kills the work’s aesthetic value. He has now abandoned them; all the paintings in this exhibition are painted in oil.

Secondly, Kyeyune works on recycled canvasses. I have information to the effect that two clients refused to buy one of his works at Afriart Gallery exactly because the work was done on a recycled canvas. They argued that painting on used canvases is unprofessional.

Then, too, some students are bitter that he recycles their works. Unfortunately for them, university regulations do not permit students to claim their examination scripts. And yet dumping them would leave a dangerous carbon footprint. So Kyeyune has found how to recycle and put them to good use. As a result, he will, at least in the foreseeable future, most likely continue to paint on used canvasses.

The poor are happy in Kampala: Kyeyune’s view of life in the city

Kyeyune studied at the School of Oriental and African Studies, where he completed a PhD in Art History. When he returned from London people asked him to compare Kampala and London.

“There is nothing to compare,” he observed. “London is an organised city and Kampala lacks order” he added.

However, there is something in Kampala’s disorder which has grabbed Kyeyune’s attention because it “fascinates” him, namely: The poor in Kampala are happy.

“Today I saw a woman while driving to work. She was frying muwogo (cassava) in the most squalid conditions, sewerage [channels oozing past her], chicken pecking on the ground, etc. As a composition this was important. [It showed] how people carry on with this kind of life. Do they complain? They are poor but not unhappy. These things fascinate me.” (Kyeyune, personal interview, 14 November 2011).

In the above statement Kyeyune outlines the subject matter and political context of his exhibition. Clearly the artist does not imagine the serene, romantic Kampala which Philly Bongoley Lutaaya sang about in his Tugende e Kampala (Let’s Return to Kampala, 1990).

He also avoids the reference to criminality in the city in Akiiki Romeo’s song Kampala. He is also not like Bob Semakula, who in his video Ebibimba Bika from 2007 placed himself at the centre of poverty in the city.

He is just a keen observer of reality in Kampala.

George Kyeyune, Gossip I, 2011, oil on canvas

Kyeyune’s reference to “a woman” must be contextualised. We see in his Gossip I (2011) a woman moving past two other women who “gossip about her”, he explained.

Now, this is the problem of having an artist discussing his work. He imputes meaning which is not easily accessible. In fact the moral code is not obvious. What is more accessible is that the artist attends to character and hairstyle, something which we also find in At the Salon (2011). In this we see a woman squats at the centre of the composition attended to by a male manicurist and a female hairdresser in front of another woman who looks on as linen dries on a washing line.

George Kyeyune, At the Salon, 2011, oil on canvas

At the Salon strikes a certain moral code. Kyeyune is a Muganda from central Uganda. It is taboo for young or adult women to squat in Buganda. As Fred Ssebaale sang in his song Abasitamira Emmere (Women Who Squat while Preparing Food, 2007), a woman who squats can bring bad luck on the family, unemployment and poverty. This convention angers gender activists.

However, Kyeyune uses it as a trope to critique redundancy and unemployment in which many Kampalan residents are trapped.

George Kyeyune, Gossip II, 2011, oil on canvas

This is the same message in Gossip II (2011) where a woman hangs linen on a cloths wire as another woman passes by with a baby stuck on her back. She stiffens as if to avoid contact with the linen or the other woman in the space.

The artist does not open any line of communication between the two. He however told me that the painting is about the effect of gossip. This reading is not clear unless if he meant that the two women are neighbours torn apart by feuds, rumours, gossip and envy, which are the kinds of vices common in Kampala and which Alex Mukulu sang about in his Bannakampala (People of Kampala, 2006).

George Kyeyune, Telephone Call, 2011, oil on canvas

Arguably, then, whether in groups or as an individual – like the skimpily dressed woman in blue in Telephone Call (2011) – Kyeyune uses the image of existential woman to engage a moral critique. He however goes beyond morals to critique the wider economic problems which afflict the poor in Kampala.

For example he is fascinated at the way slum dwellers surmount their economic woes. They operate petty “businesses” like open-air manicure, pedicure and hairdressing salons (and we see this depicted in At the Salon to which I referred earlier).

But they also operate roadside food stalls in which they roast plantains in order to support their families. Kyeyune’s Roadside Vendor (2011) affirms this reality; the woman is obviously struggling. She has however overcome poverty and managed to feed and raise a healthy baby.

In short, Kampalans are not miserable; “they are poor but happy”, the artist observes.

George Kyeyune, Roadside Vendor, 2011, oil on canvas

Commitment to societal problems and the risk of pandering to state propaganda

One can safely argue that Kyeyune’s Kampala I Will Always Come Back testifies to the artist’s commitment to societal problems. However, this position creates three challenges.

The first challenge can be traced back to Elimo Njau who was Trowell’s student in 1954-57. He graduated with a Diploma in Fine Art, taught at Makerere Demonstration School (Now Makerere College School) before returning to his native Tanzania. In 1962 he hosted His Master’s Hobby (1962) at the Uganda Museum which coincided with Uganda’s independence.

Elimo Njau, Refugees, 1962, Concrete

In the text accompanying the show, Njau called on artists to abandon the ivory tower and use art to emancipate their marginalised communities. This is how he did his Refugees (1962) to draw attention to the plight of refugees (mainly from Rwanda) in Uganda.

Njau’s call has been answered.

For example, General Elly Tumwine is a soldier, artist and art educator. He joined the rebellion which unseated the brutal Obote regime in 1986. He is a Member of Parliament representing the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF). Together with Hussein Kyanjo (Member of Parliament for Makindye), he has joined a bi-partisan effort to hold ministers accused of selfishly benefiting from the country’s oil wealth accountable although there is the risk that the targeted ministers are wrongly accused using unverified information.

Fred Mutebi uses print-making and painting as a medium to challenge bad governance. Daudi Karungi is currently exhibiting several paintings at Afriart Gallery, including two interesting paintings in which he makes a case for the right to speak. Bruno Sserunkuuma, whose pottery Kyeyune has collected, uses pottery to reconstitute the decadent nation-state.

All these artists are expressing their rights inscribed in Article 19 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and Article 29 of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda.

It is inferable from his statement that Kyeyune is following a similar path. Unlike Tumwine and Karungi, however, he does not assert the right to speak. Unlike Mutebi and Serunkuuma, he does not boldly challenge or re-order the administration of the nation-state.

He does not see ways in which his slum dwellers have used other means, for example Walk-to-Work demonstrations, to speak out. Instead he subtly asks if the right to hold government accountable and deliver really exists.

His line of inquiry is relevant. There is a growing debate in Uganda on whether the right to hold government accountable can be exercised. Uganda has a trigger-happy police which in 2010 killed a baby and shot the womb of a pregnant woman claiming provocation. As an institution the UPDF is ready and willing to help the police in its attacks on civilians. Both security agencies always cite Article 43(2) of the Constitution of Uganda (the limitation clause) and ‘orders from above’ for purposes of circumscribing and abusing people’s right to speak up.

The question for Kyeyune then is: In the midst of growing repression and militancy, can Ugandans hold the government accountable?

Although the question is relevant, Kyeyune does not answer it. Instead he makes a subtle intervention which carries with it the second challenge, that is: the risk of pandering to state propaganda.

The second challenge

The second challenge harks back to Gregory Maloba (1922-2007) who was Trowell’s Kenyan student in 1940. He taught at MTSIFA until 1966 when he returned to Kenya. In 1941 Trowell mounted the Makerere Art Show (1941) to celebrate the official opening of Makerere University’s administration block (commonly known as the Main Building). Works produced by students from the nascent MTSIFA were exhibited, including Gregory Maloba’s Death (1941).

Gregory Maloba, detail from Death, 1941, wood

Currently exhibited in the threatened Uganda Museum (threatened because it is likely to be sold), Death represents an allegorical animalistic figure crushing a frail human being with its two bare hands. Death represents the contention that human beings may be vulnerable but they are indestructible. Death was mainly an inquiry into wood as a medium of artistic expression; it was a reference to western artistic vocabulary shaped by Maloba’s access to Jacob Epstein’s work and Trowell’s pedagogy.

However, the colonial polity, threatened by WWII, received Death differently. Its existential subject matter was seen as a representation of the brutality of the Nazis and the indestructibility of the Allied forces together with the population standing behind them.

Against this re-reading a successful fusion was built between high art and the official war propaganda. Maloba (together with others) was co-opted into the colonial rhetoric of WWII – the War Effort – and commissioned to paint pictures grounded in the official version of WWII. This art-state project culminated in the Exhibition of War Painting (1942) which was also taken to London.

Maloba was lucky he aligned himself with the victors. However Martin Heidegger was unlucky he aligned himself with the Nazis; his Being and Time (1927) was exploited for official Nazi propaganda. This connection left a permanent, indefensible, indelible bad mark on the philosopher’s legacy.

Kyeyune must weight the risks.

Already he has participated in the construction of the Heroes Monument (2007). Located at Kabamba military barracks in Western Uganda, the monument depicts President Museveni as the embodiment of the 1981-86 rebellion which overthrew Obote’s regime.

He also took part in the ‘CHOGM Project’ which involved the making of The Stride, a group sculpture which projected, rather than questioned, the official ideology and agenda.

I estimate that although not funded by the state, Kyeyune’s The Kampala I Will Always Come Back To may suit the official explanation of the current socioeconomic situation in the country.

If his Kampalans do not question the state, he does not use his art to clearly and forcefully help them. Instead he suggests that the poor have overcome their problems, poor children are healthy after all, bodaboodas, manicure and salons help people to overcome poverty. As such his critical tool is blunted.

His exhibition taps into a trajectory which has been exploited by the government to support the current economic programmes which have pushed many into the poverty the artist visualises.

The third challenge arises out of Kyeyune’s use of humour to create aesthetics.

The Kampala I Will Always Come Back To: Injustices lost in aesthetics?

In Boodaboda II (2011) and Bayuda (2011) the artist uses the trope of an exaggerated load without suggesting that the motorcycle is overwhelmed. That way the failed transport system is overcome.

Called bodabodas, motorcycles are a permanent feature on Kampala’s crowded streets. They are used by many of those who cannot afford personal cars. They are a convenient way of beating traffic jams. They are commonly overloaded and recklessly ridden – as it is seen in his Bodabooda III (2011) where a rider has loaded many adults and children on the same motorcycle.

As such, statistics from the national referral Hospital Mulago show that many accidents on Uganda’s roads result from the recklessness of bodaboda cyclists which the police has failed to control.

George Kyeyune, Bodaboda III, 2011, oil on canvas

And yet through humour Kyeyune aestheticises (and thus sanitises) this recklessness. For instance in Boodaboda I (2011) he depicts a rider who has opened his shirt, creating a kangaroo-like pouch in which he places a child for safety. This is risky and reckless considering that the rider uncomfortably sits on the petrol tank of the motorcycle in order to create enough space for his pregnant passenger, his wife.

“He is lucky he has a bodaboda,” Kyeyune explains while contending that the man before us is not like many others whose women die at home owing to complications related to failure to get antenatal care. Others die in hospital owing to neglect.

Unable to find an ambulance, the man in Bodabooda I takes his wife to a health facility. He does not demand government action; he uses the only means available to him, his bodaboda. Through improvisation the man overcomes a life-threatening difficulty in a country where the healthcare system has collapsed.

Thus Kyeyune has reconstructed an act which borders on recklessness into triumph, benevolence and duty to family.

George Kyeyune, Bodaboda I, 2011, oil on canvas

Equally reckless is Tebaagaliza (2011), in which a vehicle has broken down. Some passengers frantically look on; others resign themselves to their fate. The space is not identifiably urban. This ambiguity isolates the scene from the poorly planned and crowded city. It allows us to see the ability to overcome a problem. Thus a mechanic is working without a jack and without removing the load that suffocates the broken-down vehicle.

In our interview the artist explained that his works are “a deliberate, conscious effort”; they are not spontaneous. They are a systematic, deliberate, artistic inquiry into life as it is in the city.

He adds humour in order to create art: “[T]he comical part of it is the practical decision [the subject] has taken. It is that kind of humour [which gives effect to] both the injustice” and the artistic experience in which “colour theory and technical things” are satisfied, he said.

He added that the experiences he captures may be sad. He, however, veils them in humour which “animates” them thus allowing the buyer to use the “work to decorate [his/her] house” although there is a risk that sometimes this intervention “overwhelm[s] the subject matter”. (Kyeyune, personal interview, 14 November 2011).

To state it differently, The Kampala I Will Always Come Back To is a sanitised representation in which recklessness and economic injustice have been aestheticised for purposes of satisfying the bourgeoisie tastes of the middle class and tourist market which buys Kyeyune’s work.

As such humour removes his representations from their lived reality.

Conclusion

Being a representation in which indestructible individuals take charge of their destiny, The Kampala I Will Always Come Back To is grounded in an existentialist view which risks pandering to state propaganda.

Confronted with donor criticism (through Wikileaks and reductions in bilateral assistance), incessant public demonstrations, and mainly the Walk-to-Work demonstrations, the state would want to hear that individuals in the city are mastering their destiny.

I argue that Kyeyune’s voice, if visual, is a public testimony that the urban population is happy.

This message is risky. It confirms government’s view that things are not as bad as the opposition seems to “maliciously” portray in the international media (Facebook, BBC, Al Jazeera, etc).

However it has been rejected by the opposition. Besides, the depreciating shilling, runaway inflation, permanent power outages, rising unemployment and bloody riots currently raging in Kampala do not paint a picture of a poor but happy population.

Dr. Angelo Kakande has researched extensively on contemporary Ugandan art and the connection to politics. He is currently the Head of the Department of Design at MTSIFA.

Cincopa WordPress plugin

20 Comments »

  • Claude Pare said:

    What about ‘Art for art’s sake’?
    Does every Ugandan artist have an unwritten responsibility to critique the failings of the political system in their works ?
    Must every song, dance, novel or painting be a vehicle for change or can some artists still be preoccupied by the lyricism or even tragic beauty of everyday life ?
    I believe political change is the responsibility of the Ugandan people as a whole, it can only come from a growing awareness of the people through information and education , we are the ones who will accept or dismiss the twisted images of propaganda.
    Thus, must the artist be absolutely governed by what is ‘outside’ the aesthetic qualities of his subject matter?

  • Rumanzi canon said:

    I do not see existentialism in this work, Neither is there any ‘ism’.
    The bending of every piece here to the political critique of Uganda is deeply questionable.
    Most times art is art and every person reads their anything into it.
    So, going beyond the aesthetic and then locking the subject matter of the pieces to a negative point of view twisted into ‘the poor but happy’ ideology,is something that suggests there is something of high value about being alive in pain and suffering.
    After humans have continuously failed to find a meaning beyond experience in life/existence, the mention of the word poor invokes an image of dirt, disease, limitation and all kinds of suffering so, ‘poor but happy’?
    good that but has a ‘habit’ of invalidating the statement before its mention.
    Most unsaid,cliches well re-echoed,almost nothing done; there is no big solution to Ugandan political football in art, neither is there a solution to Uganda’s issues in politics.
    Thus,the angle put to this post is questionable.

  • J.S.K said:

    What is Canon’s point exactly?
    I thought the writer’s argument was that the artist suggests that individuals have surmounted their poverty; they are happy. Such a position is existentialist in some ways; it could be exploited by a regime facing growing dissent from an impoverished population. Am I reading a different script?

  • Angelo KAKANDE F.J. said:

    Canon,
    I concede that my posting can be questioned. I however find it strange that you seem to suggest that the exhibition could not have been questioned. This is a strong case for the sanctity of aesthetics which is not bailed out by the exhibition itself and the interview I had with the artist. Equally strange is the statement that “most times art is art and every person reads their anything into it”. It more than anything else renders your own posting questionable. I think.

  • Adholla said:

    The same amount of energy and time spent on penning a critique could be well spent on creating a work of Art. Until the time when Art critiques start practicing what they theoretically love to preach, or in simpler terms when an Art critique stops, reflects and replies in the same three or two dimensional format with a work of Art, progress and critical thought would be achieved rather than resorting to elusive conclusions and academia.
    Kyeyune has exhibited growth and digging up his path from the past to the present does not do much to diminish the fact that his works are his own perspective about the subject and theme he chooses to deal or work with. I may be wrong to ascertain that there is a tint of a personal grudge but that is open to debate.
    With all due respect, man eats where he works it may boil down to bread and butter issues, but in the creative world, an Artist has to make ends meet. And to the Art Critiques remember that…Only an elitist snob would want art to be confined to a worthy group of aficionados.

  • Dominic Muwanguzi said:

    I am glad that i have had time to read Dr. Kakande’s critique of Dr. Kyeyune’s entire work.
    It is important for an artist to be a social commentor and expressionist. There’s no way you can be good artsit if you do not have such qualities in your work.
    Because of his being a social commnetor, Kyeyune inevitably becomes a story teller; one with a knack for sattire and sometimes wit.
    As a result of these two qaualities, it is very possible for Kyeyune to drive his point home with out aggrieving anyone.
    Artists need to borrow from him…

  • Dominic Muwanguzi said:

    To put my earlier comment into better perspective, yes, i believe a art should be more than aesthetics. It is is good to have art with beautiful colors, but the impact of having art which speaks the language of political and social themes can not be ignored.
    Art that is politically outspoken has the mandate to rouse debate and think out side the box. This is why anyway art exists; to empower the masses and cause change.
    Dr. Kyeyune’s work borders on this. Though his compositions are of his daily Kampala experience, beneath them is the political voice which causes one to think beyond the oils and pastels. Why should a boda boda carry more than one passenger and yet they re Traffic officers on the streets? This means there’s corruption in the law of the land. Atthe Salon” is a manifestation of a society that has been ravaged by immorality.
    Conversely,the controversial art exhibition organised by KART annualy, also echoes the strength of such type of art hence it has over the years become a house hold name for artists to express themselves politically.
    Interestingly, the work presented at this exhibition is one of the best not necessarily in terms of color, but in terms of creativity and the debate that always ensues.

  • ASHA said:

    ASHA. F
    The work of art is not regarded as deliberate or artificial creation of the artist but rather as mythical reality which in power of strength exceeds all natural reality. Kyeyune being a keen observer of reality, he is trying to look at the organization of the city, gossip, transport and employment.
    I use kyeyune`s works plus my experience as a Ugandan to disagree with Professor kyeyune, that the poor are happy in Kampala. There is no happiness that can be generated from poverty.
    In gossip 1 2011, the major cause of gossip is redunce and unemployment and its related effects, the level of unemployment as a result of street vendors being chased out of Kampala has increased gossip, they are redunt, the two women in painting belong to another class where they can afford to take care of their hair and afford nice cloths while the other belongs to the lower class and she cannot afford to maintain her hair, the ladies are not happy at all.
    At the saloon, the moral code of squatting is a taboo in Buganda, it’s a source of misfortune and unemployment, but do we still have culture governing us?
    It’s the manifestation of the change. Professor Kyeyune as an artist is making a comment of reality which can not be easily reversed.
    The environment is not conclusive at all, there is discomfort. The woman plaiting has skills to operate a small structured saloon, but she can not afford. The woman being pleated could neither afford a decent saloon.
    Economic perspective, the young man is part of the ever increasing service sector but this could be a graduate, who has resorted to manicure to survive. he does not have even protective gloves and he is handling sharp and cutting objects, his risk of being effected by HIV is high,
    The woman is trying to provoke, look at how she is sited? In the background, the woman under scorching sun, pregnant sited to wait for her cloths to dry that is the situation in slums. The insecurity which is brought about by unemployment makes the poor lady, wait for long hours for her cloths otherwise they will be stolen.

    In the New Vision, September 18th 2011, Mushalizi`s story the economic of street vendors says, “Their livelihood has been taken by them (KCCA) there is even the suggestion that these previous bread winners was to a life of crime to make ends meet or the political tactician are off course looking to see how to take advantage of this disgruntlement or harness this for support“
    Mushalizi`s statement can be observed in gossip 11 (2011) where a woman hangs linen on a cloth wire as another woman passes by, she did not stiffen to avoid contact with linen, but the poor lady cannot afford a meal, how can she be able to buy a bar of soap? She feels very small with her dirty cloths to pass by a neighbor hanging linen on a cloth wire. Her mood shows she is not happy.
    The level of unemployment has led to increased level of prostitution in most slum areas where the poor stay, the skimpily dressed woman in blue Telephone call (2011), the lady has “international dress code“ Nandujja Annet .sang “enyambala“ (dress code) that has been the source of evil in Buganda, its true how to you except that lady to escape rape? The dress code has increased the rate of rape.
    In Saturday monitor, October 29th 2011 by Steven Wandera, in real life story interviewed Sarah Nakato, she said, “I was raped on the deserted evening in Kibuye, but this has happened several times, I have been on the street for 10years and four kids are out of rape, we are desperate on the streets looking for survival“ Although rape is a capital offence, that attracts a maximum death sentence but prostitution is illegal and attracts a sentence of seven years in jail.
    Poverty in Kampala has led to human sacrifice, Kyeyune`s road side vendors, cannot risk leaving the baby at home when even, fathers are taking their children for sacrifice-its poverty in the amongst the poor although even the rich are opting for human sacrifice but they don`t sacrifice their own children but the children of the poor. Take an example of Kajubi. She cannot afford to dress the baby; will she afford to pay a maid to take care of the baby?
    The woman is obviously struggling to overcome poverty, although the baby is fed- but its poor diet its malnutrited, a healthy baby cannot have that big stomach.
    President Museveni launched a national nutrition plan, by Raymond Baguma in the new vision October 5th 2011. How will the civil education about nutrition help that poor lady (road side vendors) will the 161 billion Dr Kasamba Mugerwa need to implement the program reach the poor in Kampala?
    If a lady is failing to have a simple 500shilling cloth for the baby, how can she be able to have a balanced diet?
    Will the 161 billion shillings end up in the hands of people who have edited the Uganda`s motto from“for God and my country“, to for’ God and my stomach“, the Gulu Archbishop John Baptist Odarne said when addressing Christians at Rubaga cathedral on October 5th 2011.
    The [poor in Kampala are failing to make both ends meet much as they struggle a lot to fight poverty because of the increased prices of the basic needs, this has led to Gladys Kalibala stories in every Saturday page 2 where she brings stories of abandoned children by their parents because of poverty, these shows the poor in Kampala are not happy at all.
    Dr. Kakande comments on bodaboda 11 the’ the trope of an exaggerated load“ as a resident in Kampala, it’s the truth,
    “many accidents have resulted from recklessness of bodaboda cyclists“ Kakande says, I believe the Uganda police has been given the statistics from Mulago referral hospital, what has the government done? Has the government come up with measures to control the accidents? Where did the issue of helmets for every motorist end?
    Eddie Kivumbi a graduate at Makerere, in his one man show on January 23rd 1992held at Uganda mesum, titled his work“ Art the missing link“ He said in an interview.
    “ My interest in art is not to look at these Ugandan social problems alone but also reflect on the mind of an individual and of the society“
    In Kyeyune`s bodaboda 1, why should a pregnant woman sit on the boda in that matter, that has been the cause of miscourage to most of the women, the husband does not have an alternative-is he happy? The risk she has put on his baby, the boy and the baby they are expecting.
    In conclusion, Professor Kyeyune made an artistic revelation of poverty in Kampala and assumed, much as they are poor they seemed to be happy. However, the statement poor but happy is misleading because they are many social, economical and political factors that has worked together to affect the day to day life of this poor Ugandans. This may be positive but mostly negative.

  • IBANDA JOSHUA said:

    Kyeyune’s The Kampala I Will Always Come Back To: A Visual reconstruction of ‘’Jesus Writing in the sand’’
    The person depicted in Dr. Kyeyunes painting of 1983 “Jesus writing in the sand” is Not Jesus Christ, he is Dr. Angello Kakande F.J. and the leveled surface or sand where he is writing is the start journal! The woman kneeling and hiding her face before Dr. Angello Kakande is one of those Kampala women depicted by Dr. Kyeyune in The Kampala I Will Always Come Back To, in works such as Gossip, at the salon and telephone call. The standing males surrounding the two are not Pharisees, Sadducees or Jews; they are actually Ugandan visual artists! The invisible/being/force guiding Dr. Angelos writings in the sand [read Start Journal] is not the Holy Spirit, that force is Dr. Kyeyune the creator of the work.

    In this particular painting Dr. Kakande is therefore solving a societal problem through writing which would otherwise take him longer via painting, sculpture or design. He is at the centre of politics! Those Ugandan artists surrounding him are waiting for a quick answer (at least in their favor!). He has been put to task to prove to the world that he does not have a grudge with anybody! It is this particular painting that the art of writing is inaugurated by the son of God before Pharisees, Sadducees & Jews the same way Dr. Angello Kakande has done in the start journal or in the painting which is not a bad thing! Already some of us have abandoned our old faiths of zero tolerance for Art criticism and we are seriously looking for Dr. Angello Kakande for confirmation! But before we seek confirmation from Dr. Kakande, let us salute the team of the Kampala Arts Trust for creating a rendezvous for those who have mastered the art of creating wonderful works of art using both pen and brush.

    The name St. Henry’s College Kitovu was and has always been associated with art to the extent that those who went to Kitovu and joined the Makerere art school were highly respected among equals. The reason for this clout was first, due to the fact that those fellows knew how to turn their brushes and clay and secondly because of the legacy left behind by prominent artists like Gen. Elly Tumwine and Dr. Kyeyune who joined the Makerere Art School from Kitovu.

    All of us are aware that Dr. Kyeyune is one of the most admired Ugandan artists who has travelled widely and produced large volumes of work that some of us can not. I will not write much about Kyeyunes mastery of the skill of painting in this particular exhibition and for this paper because my interest is about the political side of his art.

    THE POLITICS OF THE STATE
    Kyeyune’s The Kampala I will always come back to is highly political. Iam not ashamed to say so because, Machiavelli Nicollo, one of the most respected political theorists argues that by nature man is a political animal. Machiavelli goes ahead to argue that it is only super humans like angels who can live outside politics. This is further amplified by Platos theories of knowledge and his educational scheme [epistemology] and the Marxist Thesis.
    Kyeyune depicts societal problems among Kampala folks who belong to different political affiliations and are very influential in determining the outcome of an election especially in Kampala. Kyeyune is not depicting the middle class/bourgeoisie who live in upper Kololo ,Tank Hill, those who go for pedicure and manicure in the state of the art air conditioned establishments in Kampala, rather, he is depicting the ordinary women, the illiterate groups who are a “big gun” in the politics of Uganda and Kampala in particular. Gossip I, at the salon, Gossip II and Telephone call are all depicting ordinary Ugandans who are looking forward to the “next election” to discipline the aspiring candidates. Whoever has political ambitions must prepare to to make a dance performance to prove that he has got ‘’stamina’’ or at least give them something tangible before addressing them come 2016. We all know the role played by bodabodas during the 2001, 2006 and 2011 elections.

    In 2001, bodabodas received a lot of privileges from president Museveni as some of them were part of his task force popularly known as “kakuyege”. Their political role can not be underestimated in any election since they provide part of the motorcade during campaign rallies and are hired by politicians to ferry voters to the polling station at a fee plus free fuel. We are free to depict a bodaboda performing any other task which is not viewed as political but the bodaboda rider knows his political affiliation and his role during political campaigns come 2016.

    THE POLITICS OF REPRESENTATION
    It is against that backdrop that Kyeyunes The Kampala I will always come back to is consciously or unconsciously skewed towards the politics of the state, but be that as it may, further interrogation into the nature of art works depicted in this particular exhibition reveals even more shocking details about the politics of representation which is a recent academic inquiry interrogating ways in which cultural practices are coined. A research paper presented by Emma Wolukau Wanambwa a full bright research fellow attached to Makerere University, questioned the representation of women in Art. Her position encircles all of us and we become victims of this age old tradition of using the female human instead of the male human to put across our message to the audience.
    There are fourteen (14) women out of only three (3) men depicted in the whole exhibition.

    All artists can not escape this temptation of bending more to the politics of the female model including the writer this article.

    Conclusively, it is very important that we first enroll for course units in the college of humanities and social sciences before we can deny or accept the fact that Kyeyunes ‘The Kampala I will always come to has a political side to it. Knowledge gained from that College will help us to understand the theories advanced by Machiavelli and the ideal state, and the comparative studies between Plato and Aristotle. By the end of the course unit, we will be able to define politics and understand the extent to which we can or can not distance ourselves from politics in painting and sculpture if we continue using the roads, the markets bodaboda and all social amenities that are directly or indirectly controlled by the state.

    IBANDA JOSHUA

  • Faridah Nassanga M said:

    “The Kampala I will always come Back To”
    In this exhibition Kyeyune’s recent painting show casing the actual life the Kampalans go throw to survive in this corrupt slummy city we call capital city of Uganda. These paintings are in support of the state propaganda.
    By Faridha Nassanga M. currently pursuing my Masters at Makarere
    The poor are happy in Kampala: Kyeyune’s view of life in the city
    This intrigues me strongly , I begin to wonder did he really say “The Poor are happy”. or the statement is missing something and it should have been “The poor are happy?” Just by hearing the word Poor you started to imagine all sorts of sadness that involve the employment disease, malnutrition, poor houses, hopelessness only to site after.

    It’s only those who have tasted that life, that can tell the story. You can never be poor and happy these people are suffering silently. Some of them have ended their lives to end the agony.

    The artist overlooks new visions article about a mother who poisoned her kids because the husband could not provide for them. (Lakot , 2011). Another man on Agatalikonfufu” Bukedde television killed his three children and later himself, left a note saying he was tired of suffering without help. One wonders after these scenarios where the poor are happy.

    ”Today I saw a woman while driving to work she was frying Muwogo in the most squalid conditions. Sewerage channels oozing past her…..” Quotation from Kakande’s comment.

    This is an understatement, this woman can never claim to be happy working in such filthy conditions. These people have nothing to do but struggle and get some means of survival, who can they complain to when every body is on his own and God for us all.
    The artist does not acknowledge the statement Kabakumba made on NTV news in October, she remarked that the economic situation in Uganda is not upholding as the opposition wants the international media to passive it, she added that the government will only intervene to help when thing worsens.
    He also avoids the reference the president made about sugar escalating prices, he was wondering if the sugar at 6,000shs.a kilogram is really high.
    This is an understatement to the current situation the poor are living in.
    When you analyze Kyeyune’s Gossip I 2011, he captured the mood well, two women talking to each other and the other is passing by. These women are idle and their dress code illustrates their economic condition. Imagine can anyone be happy without a source of income, it’s because they are unemployed hence have a lot of time to gossip.
    The same thing in “At the saloon (2011)”. A woman squatting as another is plaiting her hair and the one on the background is seated watching her linen dry. This is typical of slum dwellers, if you wash and leave your linen unattended to someone can snatch then off the line hence have to keep watch of your lines until they dry. Can the hair stylist be happy when she cannot even afford a descent place to call a salon, would you think this is her limit in life to plait hair on the veranda?

    Besides that look at the male manicurist, do you think he enjoys this job of moving from one place to another under scolding sun, how much does he really earn to make him happy.
    These are some of the petty jobs the Kampala do to occupy their idleness but not because they earn a lot just something to keeping them going.
    However, the artist has critically portrayed the redundancy and unemployment in Kampala. This showing how decayed our economy has become.

    In Gossip II a woman hangs clothes on wire and the other is standing by with a baby on her back. As a gender activist, I do not support the way the artist portrayed the woman. Men do gossip preferably it should have been the men’s idle gossip about women. In reference to Joffrey Lutaaya’s song “Bana Kampala ngabogera” in his video it involves men gossiping about the rich men in society. Besides that the way the artist captured the naked woman from shoulders to waist.
    In Islam a woman is body is sacred, if you see her naked you should turn away in order to respect her dignity and privacy Quran
    The artists Kampala I will always come back to make the analyst to think beyond the oils on canvas
    On addition to that “Woman in blue in telephone call (2011) Kyeyune uses images of existential woman to engage a moral critique.” Kakande comments (2011), why immoral doesn’t woman have a right to dress the way she feels. Some men walk with their chest out and no one is alarmed and if it’s a woman showing some little flesh she is condemned immoral, prostitute, loose, and all sort of names like Sebata’s “Nalwewuba 2008” and in Aromatic pictures movie “Abakyala bagalaki”

    Kyeyune says his fascinated by the way the poor are happy in Kampala, the way he has portrayed it in the “At the solon”, Telephone call, Boda Boda) basing on this evidence to the “poor are unhappy” to suit these subject matters. He must be going with the Kiganda proverb “Olutta mujawo telikugana kwebaka” meaning “if your co-wife is dying, you cannot fail to sleep”.
    The poor doing these petty jobs does not confirm their happiness but it represents there perseverance to overcome the horrible conditions they are living in.

    Kyeyune’s Roadside vendor (2011) the woman is struggling. She works on the dusty road sides with her baby necked. you think she is very happy to put her baby on the street, that baby cannot be healthy as the artist mentions, with all the dirt and garbage in Kampala streets how can it be hygienic to raise a baby there. These babies have become immune to some diseases but not all of them because they do not dress them appropriately they end up catching diseases like dysentery, pneumonia that costs them their life because the parents do not have enough money to treat them and Mulago which is the public hospital. Refer to the article in Monitor by steven Ottage about the Junior doctors strike (July ,2011 ,Tuesday)
    Besides that, the way the woman is provocatively seated leaves one to wonder if she only selling the maize.
    I dispute the artists statement “the Kampala I will always come back to”
    In Boda Boda II (2011) the artist uses the trope of an exaggerated load without suggesting that the motor cycle is overwhelmed. (Kakande comments) These Boda Bodas have made it very hard to organize the city and they carry all sorts of criminals that reap people of their goods on Kampala streets.
    One wonders where is this “Boda” is it in Kyanamuka deep in Masaka or Kampala road, aren’t their traffic laws, where is the traffic police? After answering these questions it all comes back to high crime rate in our state. In reference to Bobi Wine’s song where he said that he gave the police men 20,000/= to let him go after having violated the traffic road laws.
    On addition to that, it would be appropriate to interpret it as deliberate representation of the big handles that the low income earners face or the big handles in Kampala city that are swallowing it up.
    Besides that the Boda man with many luggages on the bike, this is suicidal how can he carry all that, his bound to create an accident anytime. And would you think his happy? Is this the way he would want to work? It’s because they earn very little hence have to go out if there way to make ends meet.

    Also in Kyeyune’s Boda 1, he says that Boda rider is happy at least he can take his wife to hospital. There are so many people in Mulago, Nsambya, mengo, who are admitted and some dead because of Boda accidents. This man would not be happy if he gets his whole family into an accident. Although I acknowledge their importance as the late Elly Wamala did in his song “Boda Boda zituyamba” but they have done more harm than good.
    The poor working condition of standing the whole day in scotching sun, Monday to Sunday and only to earn peanuts , to claim that the new paper venders is happy is contextual.
    The redundancy and unemployment that’s is exhibited in the artists work clearly disputes the title “The Kampala I will always come back To” who would want to come back to these terrible conditions of work and social life portrayed in these paintings. This is the main reason why our elite are looking for greener pastures abroad.
    This is evidenced to a big number of elite Ugandans and the illiterate going to countries like England, United states, Dubai, China to mention but a few, we see so many posters around the streets of kampala reading jobs available in U.K, Denmark.

    Sincerely the “Poor are unhappy” analysis Kyeyune’s painting where we see a woman on an old sewing machine on street. She is repairing an old garment, how much can she earn from just a repair? Can that money be enough to make her happy? The answer to this question is very clear.

    In Kakande’s interview with Kyeyune he says he adds humour to create art, to animate them allowing the buyer to use the work to decorate her/his house. This depends on what kind of house or interior for decoration. Work like Telephone call (2011) or At the Salon (2011) what kind of information would you be communicating to your children or visitors.
    How can you say the poor are happy in Kampala when according to Mrs. Musisi director Kampala City Authorities insists that to achieve a great city KCCA will have to eliminate all the garbage and shanties that pull the images of Kampala down where are these poor but happy people going to go.

    Besides that they have been sent off the streets of Kampala more over they cannot afford to rent a shop and the markets are also being burnt and sold off to the rich tycoons to build arcades for middle class (Monitor Nov. 08. 2011)
    It’s not only the poor vendors who make Kampala a mess even the current infrastructure mess and institution decay at City hall is a symptom of a more deep seated defect at nation level.
    As the artist is fascinated by the social problems which I call social dilemma in our slum capital city Kampala. He overlooks the major out cries of the poor Kampalans which include one; persistent electricity load shading over the year that finally caused business persons along Nasser and Nkrumah road to demonstrate on Wednesday November 16 as Isaac Kasami photos in (Monitor Nov. 15.2011)
    A protestor against the persistent electricity load shading arise his complaint we want power back we are tired of this situation. Change is coming soon. Why are you taking it out?

    Secondly, the flooding of these shanties the poor Kampala people leave in. Heavy rains flood their homes leaving everything they own destroyed including their petty business. To the extent that they can never develop out of poverty because what they build is destroyed when the rain comes.
    I dare you to tell these people that they are poor but happy you would leave that place with a couple of beatings.

    The artist did not consider Moses Semisa’s photos in Bukedde, underneath they wrote, “Paaka empya mukampala: muno abasuubuzi abatunda ebyokulya kyabatwalidde essawa nga satu okusena no kwera amazzi agabadde ganjaalide ebintu bywabwe ebiwerako. ”

    Thirdly, they rise in food prices, as an artist committed to social causes, you should be away of this problem. Uganda and Kampala in particular has experienced high food prices since this year began, with prices of some commodities like sugar, fish, milk rising by over 20 percent. While the inflation has risen to 28.3 percent since early 1990s, this has pushed millions in extreme poverty and higher. (Joseph Miti Nov. 9. 2011)

    Conclusion
    I argue that Kyeyune’s visual expression of the “Poor but happy” is a mockery to the unprivileged. This should not surprise anyone that Kyeyune is pondering to state propaganda.
    For some reasons, first he is a public servant , wouldn’t want his bosses to misunderstand him.
    Secondly, his among the few prominent artist contracted to do big government contracts
    He is very strategic that he does not cut the branch on which his sitting. He instead makes sure that it stays unshaken.
    However I do believe these visual expressions have been Veiled so that the artist is not misunderstood by his bosses.
    When there is change in the political system this masterly of work will have a complete new title and new meaning from the artist.

    Nassanga Faridah M

  • Dickie said:

    After 1986 all Ugandan contemporary artists disengaged from making artworks which questioned the health of the nation-state and turned to formal content issues of ethnic identity and market oriented art. We are currently seeing the coming back of criticisms of the sitting government by artists like kyeyune and Mutebi Fred a graduate of Makerere Paints about politics criticizing the current regimes performance, questioning the government’s corruption tendencies.
    This situation has been depicted differently from what used to happen before the NRM regime came to power. We are now seeing economic problems other than murder and massive looting. In Lutaya’s song of “Tugende E Kampala” it was the period when Ugandans had gotten peace and security expecting the best from the new regime.
    Kyeyune , I call him a free lancer who was inspired by the situation he found in Uganda after returning from London. The poor are poor but happy, meaning that it’s the way of life in Uganda and even other parts of Africa. We have the Rich, middle class and the poor. The artist has used the Situation as his source of inspiration.
    The small interview I had with Prof. Kyeyune, he says that when ever he is driving from his home to work he sees a lot of motion going on , how people are rushing early morning to work walking others in taxies and Bodaobodas, carrying produces to the markets around Kalelwe market. He some times feels like stopping for a while to capture the drama. All this has inspired him to see people work in the hardest ways possible to earn a living. This has inspired me a lot; he said.
    Pro. Kyeyune’s exhibition is showing how people have managed to cope with the hard economic situation in Kampala. The poor are happy is a syndrome which has affected Ugandans that, in those hard conditions one has to learn how to survive. In his paintings he doesn’t lose the aspect of style which makes his works affordable on the market. They serve a purpose of showing what is currently happening but not directed attacking the Government.
    On the other hand one can urge it out that Kyeyune’s saying that he is just painting what is happening not propagandamay not fetch water; I think he is going more to propaganda indirectly because of his exaggerations in some paintings like the Bodaboda III, emphasizing what is currently happening. If you are comfortable with any thing you can ever judge its bad side publically.
    Kyeyune is not directly questioning the political situation in the Country, because he has been doing work commissioned by the government. My suggestion for his title of the Exhibition would be “Survival in Kampala” According to his paintings the people are not complaining but straggling on to earn a living. Elly Tumwiine a member of the ruling government an artist, a graduate from the school of art a soldier and a representative in parliament for the Armed forces, is recently constantly viewed on media trying to condemn the corruption happening in the country and has come up with a new movement to fight corruption in Uganda. His approach of the situation is not by oil on canvas but through media to address issues.
    I do agree with Kakande that the unfairness of the political system has been lost in aesthetics. There is a lot of freedom and flexibility in the laws that have made people do what they want. This is evident in the painting of Boda Boda III, there is flexibility of law enforcement making motor cyclists to over load their bikes, street vending is every were on Kampala streets. The government is using this freedom to gain political support from the people since people are free to do any kind of work to earn a living. There is a common saying by people, mostly those who where old enough and able to see the previous governments of the 60s to early 80s that this regime has brought us peace and freedom.
    This has created a scenario where by the government can no longer control and manage curtain areas of service provision like the transport sector, prices are always arising on the expense of the poor people because the government can’t regulate them.
    What I am asking my self after the current regime is no longer in power is whether these paintings will maintain the same titles and interpretations given by the artist or change?
    Most artist tend to conceal the real meaning of the plays, songs and poetry they perform and exhibit as long as the person or situation is still around and later reveal the real meaning when they are sure that they are safe. The formal president of Uganda Idi Amin’s Videos has been acted and put to the public when the producers and arts are sure of their safety.
    Artists like who tried to paint directly what was happening during the 70s and early 80s escaped to exile or disappeared mysteriously. Ronald Mayinja’s song of tulikubunkenke made him get interrogated by security agencies in Uganda and almost banned the song from being played on all kinds of media.
    Local artists like Jose chameleon who song Basiima O’genze earned himself a Presidential gift of a brand new Landcruser V8 because the song was in the presidents interests and it was during the campaign season the same applies to other artists like Edie Kanzo who also got him self money from the president. We are seeing that artists are doing work with a message behind but most importantly to gain a living from it. That’s why also Kyeyune aestheticised his works to satisfy the bourgeoisie tastes of middle class and tourists market which buys his work.

    Conclusion
    Kyeyune’s work has got a lot to educate the public or advance the propaganda, but it will be based on each ones ways of interpreting it. The message might be risky but it awakens the poorly managed laws and public funds.

  • EPA said:

    1. To say that someone is “poor but not unhappy” is emphatically *not* the same thing as saying that someone is “poor but happy.” Kakande needs to spend more time thinking through the (philosophical) foundation of his critique.

    2. This argument seems like a rather ham-fisted regurgitation of the old protest politics line — an all-too-common flagellation of those artists who fail to engage in the most obvious expressions of the current dogma guiding the day. But perhaps this is (unfortunately for us readers) the most that one can expect from those who study art and politics today…

    3. To my mind, at least, the idea of “tragicomedy” is a much more interesting lens through which to view and think about (and even critique, where appropriate) Kyeyune’s work. It’s a common term in literature, and has been explored in great depth by black American artists and intellectuals.

    4. It’s truly sad that an academic who studies the intersection of art and politics would feel entitled to write this sentence: “Now, this is the problem of having an artist discussing his work.” Perhaps Kyeyune should paint himself mouthless. Now THAT’S a political statement that Kakande could understand!

  • donald said:

    George Kyeyune’s The Kampala I will Always Come Back To: A REAWAKENING OF ‘BODABODA’ EXPULSION FROM KAMPALA CITY.
    As many enjoyed probably bought pieces from the Kampala I will Always Come Back to art exhibition at the Afriart Gallery in kamwokya by G. Kyeyune, an associate professor at Makerere University Fine Art School, I strongly doubt a sane bodaboda rider if any turned up for the exhibition walked away with appreciation and smiles at Kyeyune’s work. I first saw Kyeyune’s presentation of a bodaboda in 2006 during the annual exhibition by lecturers at the Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Art, known as different but one mounted in the Makerere Art gallery, He exhibited a painting entitled Kifansalira which can be translated as care determines beauty, meaning that the amount of care a man gives for the wife, the more beautifull she becomes. In this painting, a rider carries a skimpily dressed woman on his bodaboda and the mud guard is written on kifansalira. Speaking about that painting, Kyeyune says that his observation of the surrounding as he travels led him to pick interest in how bodaboda riders furnish their motor bikes with statements from hitting debates, comedy, or songs of the period. Since then he has continued to paint depicting the motorcycle and its business.
    Bodaboda originates from border-border which literally means border to border. It started out in the 1960s and 1970s as a cheaper means of transport to carry people and goods across the “no-mans-land” between the border posts without the paperwork involved with using motor vehicles crossing the international border. This started in southern border crossing
    town of Busia (Kenya/Uganda), where there is over half a mile between the gates, and
    quickly spread to the northern border town of Malaba (Kenya). The bicycle owners
    would shout out boda-boda (border-to-border) to potential customers. Today they have spread to other parts of Uganda and Africa, dominantly towns and city centres.1 Kyeyune brings back the bodaboda and exhibits about four paintings which are even much more engaging about the bodaboda, something that causes critical analysis especially amidst raging debates on the proposed changes for the reorganization of the city center which has increased momentum with the coming on board of the Kampala Capital City Authority.
    It is observed that this sector of the transport industry has enormously increased in Uganda, certainly in city/town centers which are a good thing especially in terms of quicker means of beating Kampala’s unavoidable traffic jam and offering jobs to the youths. However as A. Kakande2 submits, statistics from the national referral Hospital Mulago show that many accidents on Uganda’s roads result from the recklessness of bodaboda cyclists which the police has failed to control.
    Efforts to tame and control there influx in the city have many times fallen futile, and authorities have not given satisfactory answers as to why such an industry with a horrific record is still left at large operating on Kampala central business district roads.
    “Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) is considering a proposal to ban boda- boda (motor bikes) cyclists in Kampala city.
    The central business district would be a no-go area for boda-bodas if the proposal is approved. The move is aimed at decongesting the city; reduce accidents as well as restoring order in the city. Sources reveal that boda- boda cyclists will not be allowed to go beyond Wandegeya, Makerere Hill Road to LDC, Gaddafi Road, Namirembe Road to Kafumbe Mukasa Road, Clock Tower, Queens’ Way to Nsambya, Mukwano Road to Kitgum traffic lights on Jinja Road, and Yusuf Lule up to Mulago round-about and back to Wandegeya.
    Merely two years ago city authorities wanted to ban the boda-bodas but the Police halted the decision arguing that it was made hurriedly and without consultations.” 3
    In an earlier incident in 2008, KCC, police and some government officials agree to suspend not even to ban yet and this was due to prolonged concerns that the bodabodas disorganized the city centre, something which the Inspector General of Police and the then Minister of Transport supported, the bodaboda riders argued that kicking them out of the city centre would be like ending their work as they will not all be able to get clients as it is in the city centre also claiming that clearing the loans by which they acquired the motorcycles would be a problem. The then RDC for Kampala Rose Kirabira halted this move, saying that the central government had not agreed to the decision for bodaboda to be kicked out of Kampala city and that only had agreed to reduce their stages in the city4. If the suspension had been implemented, keen observations of the proposal would have allowed for better planning for the industry and the city centre I suppose.
    G. Kyeyune humorously presents number of bodaboda scenes in his work, with none abiding by the traffic rules and regulations governing motor cyclists on the road as presented in the Highway Code, of the republic of Uganda, ministry of works and transport 2009.

    George Kyeyune Boda boda III 2011 Oils on Canvas.

    George Kyeyune Boda boda I 2011 Oils on Canvas.

    George Kyeyune Bodaboda II Oils on Canvas.
    It clearly states that Carrying more than one passenger, carrying small children, carrying anything or anyone on the petrol tank, are all prohibited.
    Both the rider and passenger are supposed to wear safety helmets, with the strap securely fastened, wear bright clothes to increase visibility, preferably a yellow jacket with reflective strips and driving extra carefully, motorcycles are the most dangerous of all vehicles, because in case of a crash there is nothing to stop those riding on it from getting badly hurt5.
    Very few of these riders hold valid driving permits for that class of vehicle as the transport and road safety act, section 35. These and a lot more breaking of the road rules and regulations bodaboda riders often times walk away with it but only one time of failure to escape results into deadly injuries and death its self.

    T. Bjornskau 6collects from an interview with Kyeyune that travelling between his home n Gayaza Road and his work place at Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Arts at Makerere University, gives him countless opportunities to store everyday images in his mental memory. This also tells us that he sees quite a lot of mess by bodabodas. This mess is equally seen by the Police which are supposed to enforce these rules and regulations but they just look on as toothless dogs partly because the riders can easily escape police check ups and arrests but also because their recommendation together with other stake holders to have bodabodas evicted from the central business district of Kampala city is not honored by government.

    In other words Kyeyune uses his painting skill, to remind the government and authorities in Kampala that its high time action is taken for order and safety of our roads and users. The solution does not entirely and only rely in evicting them out of the central business district because disorder will also be created beyond but in a conclusive plan to regulate and enforce the Transport and Road Safety act on this industry.

    Nantagya Donald S. MAFA student at CEDAT- Makerere University.

  • mzili said:

    man my eyes are welling up gallons of tears reading these conversations. the debate has started in earnest.

  • Moses Serubiri said:

    There’s such an alive debate going on here, precisely as to what art should or shouldn’t do. This simply brings to mind the value if art: reaching into our very moral conscience.
    I like the artists consistency in what can sometimes be called a “poetic voice” which is neither taken completely by the political harshness of today nor utterly overwhelmed by Africa and specifically Uganda’s problems. It’s satirical but carefully clever and serious.

  • TA said:

    I have not got EPA’s point. He seems to suggest that to say “they are poor but not unhappy” is not the same thing as they are “poor but happy”. So what is it? To send Kakande to take a philosophy class is to blatantly fail to discharge one’s burden of explaining what it is.

    EPA must do this discussion a favour and explain this: what is so pleasurable about poverty in Kampala and Uganda? Apart from the senses of the gullible wealthy tourists and middle class who enjoy Kyeyune’s work, who else finds poverty pleasurable? Put another way: how could people suffering from disease, malnutrition, poor sanitation, poor housing, etc, fail to be unhappy.
    Come on ‘philosopher EPA’ you are taking semantics too far!! Get off your high horse, throw away the blinkers and face Kampala. You might begin to see something which is behind all the demonstrations and tear gas seen in Kampala lately. Probably this is not the Kampala Kyeyune comes back to. However that Kampala is very real. In fact, it presents an ugly backdrop (rich in poverty, unhappiness and disgruntlement) against which Kyeyune’s works are, and must be, cast.

  • EPA said:

    TA —

    This is elementary logic. “Not X” does not necessarily equal “X.” Think about it. To say that someone is “not necessarily unhappy” could mean that such a person exists in a host of other states, not necessarily happiness. And as I said in my post above, an academic who studies the intersections of art and politics should be capable of making more sophisticated arguments. There was absolutely nothing in Kyeyune’s interview (at least as it was presented here) to suggest that he believes that the poor are happy with their lot; that’s just sloppy thinking and writing on Kakande’s part. The problem for Kakande is that, without that false supposition, his entire argument falls apart.

    This essay was a bad argument, but perhaps bad in an instructive way, as it has us all thinking and arguing.

    EPA

  • TA. said:

    Pardon me because this is going to be a long one for the reasons that will become clear in a moment.

    Let me begin by conceding that I am neither a philosopher/logician nor an academician. I am only trying to make sense of this discussion as I respond to EPA. He will excuse me if I missed his point.

    So EPA tells me that in “elementary logic” there could be two parties one is “not X” the other is “X”. They have a relationship between them sketched in the following terms: the one who is “ ‘not X does not necessarily equal ‘X’”.

    Sometimes what seems to be elementary to an expert might turn out to be complex for a novice. I was once told that the role of logic is to make clearer/more understandable, not to assume, as EPA does, that everybody understands. EPA must therefore discharge the burden of doing the logical analysis that Kakande failed to do. That way we all benefit.

    This then points to the question I have for EPA. Exactly what is “not X” equal to? If the poor in Kampala are miserable and expressing anger on the streets but Kyeyune says they are poor but not unhappy, for EPA this points to many other states of being. I am sorry I do not buy this at all. It is my humble opinion that EPA seems not to lead the discussion to any clear understanding of Kyeyune’s art and its relationship with the Kampala “of today”. I think this is a result of the fact that EPA is using an abstract situation to speak about real poor people in Kampala. He misses the key verb, to “represent”, which Kyeyune uses to link the exhibition to the Kampala of today.

    EPA is also misreading Kyeyune’s art. He is suggesting that it is a universal language which is timeless. Place the exhibition in a time frame – especially the year 2011 in Kampala – and see how it gains a bloodied real life meaning. The exhibition begins to represent a specific history; it shades off any claim for universality. Since EPA is, as it seems to me, premising his criticism on the universality claim it follows that his own argument collapses — just like that. What then is left? One argument trying to collapse another as it collapses itself? I thank Kyeyune, Kakande and Start Journal for having made this possible.

    I also think the problem with EPA’s criticism is that it is displacing the exhibition from the riotous socio-political experience in which it was conceived and mounted. Kakande did not.

    EPA is probably placing the paintings against the backdrop of his cozy, middle-class, air-conditioned home/office. That is why they exude a sense of other states including his. Actually the elite and middle class in Kampala do that very often. They drive their tinted glass 4x4s through Kampala and insulate themselves from the city’s poor using Berlin walls and armed guards.

    It is only now that commercial banks are raising interest rates on loans and mortgages that the elite and middle class are coming down to earth and realizing that they have been living a lie. They are also being joined by the super rich property moguls. Today, as I write, there is a strike (call it riot) organised by the property moguls and merchants in Kampala supported by Makerere University staff. This is probably the first “politico-collective” of its kind in which the cream of the nation (composed of the rich and educated) is expressing its dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in Kampala and Uganda thanks to the high interest rates. Where was this group last year when the poor Kampalans and the rest of the country was contesting the way the country is being run? It was in its, and in fact EPA’s, comfort zone. Last year the property moguls asked for military police protection to guard their ill-gotten estate against the poor rioters. They argued, at least we were told by the police (and this statement was not disputed), that for them the country was on the right economic path; strikes and demonstrations are bad for business. So how comes demonstrations and strikes are now good for business?

    Most importantly, how can we read an artwork making a claim to “represent” such a state of affairs? We must avoid the temptation of reading such work though what Kakande calls “sanitized” aesthetics.

    Also, EPA must note that Kyeyune and Kakande are discussing the Kampala of today. The moment this becomes clear EPA’s use of an abstract individual “not X” who is “not necessarily unhappy” becomes ridiculous and misleading. In the Kampala of today both the poor and rich are unhappy and they are taking turns to express this unhappiness. It is only the student of that old nonsense called “disinterested aesthetics” that sees the situation differently.

    By the way, is EPA suggesting that Kyeyune is referring to the “internet-Kampala” of today which tourists, the elite and middle class are so acquainted with through facebook, tweeter, visituganda-dot-com, etc? If the answer is yes then I have spoiled EPA’s day. But EPA must appreciate that I am responding to this debate, and exhibition, as an angry Ugandan located here in Kampala. I am reflecting on my daily experience of explaining to my children why we have teargas and mean-looking police and military vehicles stationed at every main road junction in Kampala. I think strongly that it is not enough to say that all this exists “in a host of other states” without telling us what that “host of other states” is.

    I am not Kakande’s advocate; I am sure he is better suited to defend his position. I however strongly think EPA’s implied attack on Kakande’s argument as sloppy, etc, invites serious reflection and questioning. Going by what EPA says I am inclined to thank God that I am neither a philosopher nor a logician. I also begin to appreciate why Socrates died the way he died. It seems there is something wrong with the relationship between lived experience (being life in Kampala today) and EPA’s philosophy/logic.

    TA

  • George Kyeyune said:

    My exhibition, innocent exhibition has become a subject of fascination if not condemnation. I am surprised at the deluge of responses it has received. I am on my way to mounting the next solo exhibition mainly sculpture which still makes sometimes overt reference to Kampala.
    First, I am not working for a producer or market– such things do not motivate my art, I am happy if some rupees pour into my pocket as they sometimes they do, but not because I have strategically positioned my self to pick them. I have always followed my heart as I work- I paint because I feel restless until I vent out my thoughts and the means I use to do this is making art. I am touched by my immediate environment and many times I feel sorry for poverty stricken people- and here I am not claiming to live a softer life, not at all but I think in some cases I have observed are really pathetic situations.
    I have ended up in my art, making makes reference to them not with an advocacy tone, no, perhaps I am looking for a context for my figural motifs and I am yet to find a different way of externalizing my thoughts. I have no business supporting or condemning what on the surface appear to be injustices against the “poor”, I am if you like painter trying to extend the boundaries of painting using my surroundings. What I did not realize, (and here I am not playing down any one’s contribution) is that my art does not stir the needed commotion that would enable people to raise up to their rights- it instead tends to present them as helpless and resigned individuals who can only drift along. What have the striking Kampala traders recently come out with?

  • Violet Nantume said:

    I can’t help but my inside shrinks to Angelo’s critique! causing such emotional response for sure comes with either exquisite writing skills(which of course Angelo exhibits),overwhelming truths or…. Amazing! to both extremes one would surely raise eyebrows to question contextual placements of any art(especially for the re-known artists) at the time. Whether George Kyeyune paints to or not to depict the political situation still remains in his power. As many artists paint about the various instabilities, am in most cases driven to paint what might never advocate for social, political or even economical change.these are the times i paint to please myself,with knowledge that there will be art critiques! Art as a means to an end and art for arts sake, as Claude suggested, is to the producers and consumers to choose. This is how Angelo chose to see it Bravo!