Fred Mutebi: Art – Bargaining for woman

From time immemorial, artists have always created to serve the needs of their times.

Since the prehistoric period, art has been in existence and essential to mankind in many ways. The cavemen and their artists who are believed to have lived 40,000 years ago, in different locations of Europe, Africa, India, Australia , North  America, South America and Asia, painted on the only surfaces  they had then; the cave walls and their bodies? Theories hold that the caveman drew and painted for purposes of communication with other people, as well as for ceremonial and religious purposes.

Written by Fred Mutebi

Art then had airy and magical qualities with the intention of ministering. They drew pictures of animals in anticipations and hope of killing as much as they drew.

Discoveries and excavations by archeologists have revealed that art has been part and partial of all the civilization movements in the history of mankind.

Artists create in the service of man for utilitarian challenges as well as for communication, education and documentation. Art also plays an inspirational role to other thinkers.

At some stage in the history of civilization, Art started being looked at as ART FOR ART’S SAKE. The strange idea that “ART SHOULD NOT BE ACCOUNTABLE TO ANYONE AND NEEDED TO JUSTIFY ITSELF TO NOBODY EXCEPT ITSELFstarted to emerge. Words like USE, PURPOSE and VALUE became concerns of art.

MESSAGE and MORALITY remain crucial elements to be craved by the onlookers.

Art still remains a language of expression that influences hearts and minds.

Tea party at point blue by Fred Mutebi. (c) All rights reserved.

Margaret Trowell

In Uganda, artists had always created for the same reasons as the other artists elsewhere in the world; to solve utilitarian challenges of the time as well as inspire other thinkers in other areas of problem solving.

But about 52 years ago, just before Uganda got its independence, informal art training was introduced to Uganda by a British lady known as Margaret Trowell at a location that is now the School of Industrial and Fine Arts at Makerere University.

This came along with a kind modernization that somehow disoriented the creative methodology of the artists of those days. Books were brought in from Europe; of European old art masters to inspire art students in Uganda. New and modern methods of doing art were introduced to Uganda.  Studios were set up for subjects such as painting, sculpture, ceramics and graphics. History of art, objective study and art appreciation were introduced as additional subjects to give students a more creative package.

Not many, if any, African old art masters were documented in form of books like their European counterparts to inspire students then.

What would the old art masters say of us if they returned today?

Nature, art and the contemporary world (Food for thought)

The law of nature stipulates that you cannot cheat it (nature). Nature has availed to us a lot more than science and technology are still struggling to define.

Since Art is considered as closer to nature than any other subject, nature remains the major source of inspiration for artists as artists continue with their role inspiring other thinkers. The need for Artists to serve the needs of their people shall always be realized by all generations.

The art world today requires repackaging and transforming in order to conform to the current levels of modernization and improvement in science and technology which have led to huge commercialization of virtually everything.

Important domains such as religion, politics, culture, economics, sports, and even journalism are victims of commercialization to the extent that they are now devalued, misinterpreted, misrepresented and misunderstood that there is now need to redefine each one of them to recapture the original reason and purpose for which they were instituted.

Blind leading the looking by Fred Mutebi. (c) All rights reserved.

Womankind and art

Women have been one of the major sources of inspiration for many artists throughout history. This is mainly owing to their unique endowments that you can never realize from their male counterparts. They have always been custodians of many things whose major roles are of nurturing nature.

In Africa, women have dominated canvases and other art forms as the chief source of content and mainly depicted or presented as BEAUTIFUL HARD-WORKING MOTHERS; with images of them carrying babies on their backs while doing other chores of fetching water, firewood, digging, washing, cooking, winnowing cereal and pounding it etc., all to ensure that their families are fed and nurtured.

For a long time, Women have taken strides to HATCH themselves out of this shell of reality so as to find their place in the patriarchal societies.  Somewhere in Europe in the 1780s and 90s, women’s suffrage movements started to emerge. Several women’s organizations whose prime goal is still to emancipate woman are still struggling to achieve their desired objectives.

These movements have gradually led to partial recognition of some of the women’s rights such as to vote and run for public office.

Although some men are as good a set of care givers as women, it does not hurt to try the matriarchal system for at least one term.

Waiting for the wind by Fred Mutebi. (c) All rights reserved.

The series in this collection are meant to inspire Ugandans and well-wishers to think about giving   a woman the opportunity to attend to Uganda’s problems for at least five years come 2016 in order for Uganda to recuperate as well as inspire the upcoming artists to have a new approach to depicting women in their artwork so that we give the women the kind of dignity they most deserve.

Since women have been able to carry all sorts of heavy loads in a bid to sustain their families, carried babies in their wombs for nine months hence bringing life to earth, they can also be capable of carrying peace and other things that are useful to national progress. They can be very good custodians of the nation.

One may say that “It takes years to get politically engaged and savvy. What one needs to advocate for is more representation of women at all levels of society, an equality of men and women, rather than elevation of one woman to the highest office”. But President M7 once said “IF I HAD 2000 MUSISIS…” In which context was this statement?

“Five years of infinity of time is not much to ask for.”


Fred Mutebi is a Ugandan visual artist.

Counting down by Fred Mutebi. (c) All rights reserved.