KLA ART 014 through the eyes of Alex Lyons.
‘Who are the unheard, unplanned and unmapped artisan traders of our cities and how do their unique micro economies shape the cities in which we live?’– Curatorial Committee
When the curatorial committee announced their concept for KLA ART 014, there was a lot anticipation of what might be on show as the word ‘Unmapped’ is a very interpretable theme. After the opening of the exhibition the vision of Violet Nantume, Moses Serubiri, Robinah Nansubuga, Hasifah Mukyala and Phillip Balimunsi was illuminated. It was a calculated risk by the festival’s organisers to put trust into un-recognised curators and these voices responded with unorthodox curatorial approaches of.
The Boda Boda Project artist Kino Musoke, 24, is a self taught animator and filmmaker who had never participated in an art festival or exhibition of this kind before. His modified bodaboda titled I am Boda Boda adds glamour to the drivers who are the ‘taxis, ambulances and even detectives’ in the streets of Kampala. The multiple mirrors are supposed to express these many roles of the driver.
Festival Exhibition artist Paul Bukeyna Katamiira, 57, is from a family of barkcloth makers who have been producing for over 300 years. He often supplies artists with barkcloth for their works, however he had never exhibited in an art exhibition before. Katamirra produced a barkcloth installation that includes a printed barkcloth book describing the process and a barkcloth history in Luganda.
Watch the interview being filmed in this photograph here.
Here Ngobi Mohammed of the collective Disability Art Project Uganda (DAPU) drives a bodaboda that they modified with a side seat for people with disabilities. Ngobi has no institutional art education and his boda boda exhibits the more practical uses of art.
Francis Nnaggenda was a very active artist during the 1960’s – 1990’s, many admirers of Ugandan art are familiar with his sculptures, yet prior to KLA ART 014 his work had not been exhibited in Kampala for 15 years. Here a group of art students from S7 Project discuss his painting Vendor On Scaffold. The majority of them had never been to an art exhibition or a museum before.
Around a decade ago most people in the Kampala art scene were familiar with Vivian Mugume’s work that was before a near fatal motor accident resulted in severe memory loss. He says his work in KLA ART 014 attempt to piece back together his memory so that he can move forward with his life.
The curators juxtaposed the selection of artists with a more prominent venue for the Festival Exhibition. The choice of the Kampala Railway Station holds huge significance both in Kampala and across the whole East African region. The building is a symbol of the regions imperialistic past, it was one of the largest projects undertaken by the British Colonialists and yet it has been closed to the public since 1992. Next year the railway will be reopening and it was a poignant opportunity for both local and regional artists to respond to both the railways history and to its future
Ugandan artist Helen Nabukenya draped her tapestry, Golden Heart over the front of the building. The artwork consisted of many pieces of fabric that she stitched together with a group of four women from her community. She was inspired by all the their stories and their great strength in overcoming their problems.
Tanzanian artist Paul Ndunguru transformed the station lobby into an interactive installation titled My Building Blocks in which he invited the audience to contribute ideas for the future of Uganda.
Ethiopian Mulugeta Gebrekidan exhibited a video art piece about a new railway track in Addis Ababa. The new line runs through two neighbourhoods and Mulugeta took the opportunity to savour a moment of transition by performing a traditional coffee ceremony on tracks before they become active.
One of The Boda Boda Project’s biggest audiences was boda boda drivers themselves, who often almost crashed whilst passing the exhibition. It was a chance for the artists to engage with the people that their work was about.
Photographer Papa Shabani set up a mobile photo studio on the back of his boda boda with the intention of mapping the drivers of Kampala. He would sell each print for 500 UGX, so that the riders could own their photo and in doing so he created his own micro economy.
Everyday the boda bodas would drive through the city so that even the people who couldn’t visit the exhibition had a chance to see the works passing.
On some occasions such as in Wandegeya very large crowds formed around the works.
Alex Lyons is a photographer and cinematographer who works as the media manager for 32º East.