Jaguza – Art That is Open to Everyone
32º East held their open day, Jaguza, on 7 December 2013. The day was curated by Violet Nantume and Robinah Nansubuga, who cultivated the artists in residence to show their works in progress. Seven different studios, displays and exhibitions filled the compound off Gabba Road in Kampala. Despite the challenges of coordinating artists, enticing an audience and the rain, those who arrived found themselves deep in conversation about the artwork; some visitors even got dirty at the interactive pottery painting area.
Start Journal used this informal education space to invite writers to engage with on-the-spot writing opportunities. We set a brief and surprisingly, all seven writers picked different displays and different approaches to documenting the work. Below is their individual take on this dynamic day.
Adongo Carolynn Adams on Ogwang Jimmy John’s The Silent Walk
The Silent Walk evokes something new, something unique and something for the future of art. To understand more, I asked Jimmy John to tell us about his vision and progressive thinking.
Q: Why sound art in particular?
A: Hearing or listening is an art that has been ignored, and yet there are so many different kinds of interesting sounds.
Q: Why The Silent Walk?
A: I found it intriguing, especially thinking about how the blind people feel and what it’s like listening to sound and yet not seeing the actual source of the sound. Also, the mixed feelings that the ordinary people have after reacting to the different sounds. I felt there was a way that I could use this to create an impact.
Q: What kind of impact?
A: When people hear different sounds, there is a variety of emotions and reactions evoked from them, so my interest was to see a positive or negative emotion or reaction.
Q: How did you go about gathering and recording these different sounds?
A: It took me a few days – everyday I would go to a public space, busy or quiet and walk through it with my recorder on. Then, I sat down and did my necessary picks and edited them.
Q: What are your intentions with sound art? Where do you see yourself with this ‘new style’ of sound art?
A: I see my sound art creating awareness of the ignored day-to-day of life’s businesses and all that surrounds us. This way I can use it as a channel of communication which, together, might bring treatments to the health sector.
David Kazia on Ian Mwesiga’s residency work
Ian Mwesigwa asks the question “Who am I?” through his five acrylics on paper.
The subject matter is a diversion from his usual concerns with children and environment. Ian’s five canvas measuring 93cm x 73cm are introspective, like an attempt to capture moments of thought. It is risky to interpret introspection. In fact one must speak to the artist to fully understand the relationship.
When asked about the process, Mwesiga answered that he works on brown absorbent paper, and doesn’t prime his canvas. His methodology was summarised as, “random”. He begins by putting on the paper acrylics and acrylax; acrylic has a dull surfaces and acrylax has a shine. “I like the colour brown for its richness, its not a conversation with a usual colour. On the colour wheel it is a very advanced, you have to mix a number of colours to arrive at brown.” Impatience brings him to use acrylic as a preferred paint. “Whenever I have a moment of doubt I lose the thought with oil. If you want part with an idea, it’s not possible, the oil takes too long to dry.” For this work he set up mirrors and looked at himself to make sketches.
‘Old Reflections’ has eyes lowered and averted away from the viewer’s gaze, as if the subject in the painting has just been asked a question and is still thinking. ‘Lost in Thought’ is a somnambulant piece that distorts the face of his subject; as if from expressing the internal, the subject is expanding from the sheer warmth of the internal thoughts. It is an ambitious undertaking, for the internal-external interstice is tricky; hold on too tight and its gone, too cuddly and it’s botched.
Mugeni Mukanga on Dance in the City
Dance in the City is a collection of photos about how dance is expressed in daily life, taken by a group of artists. Artistic perspectives ranged from film to sculpture, bound by their participation in the May 2013 workshop entitled: Shaping the Environment in Which We Live With Art. The theme of Utopia and Dystopia was facilitated by Malian photographer Harandane Diko and artistic director Hama Goro.
The resulting crop of photographers were brought back together by curator Robinah Nansubuga. Under an invitation from the Dance Transmission Festival in November 2013, a new idea emerged – Dance in the City.
Although the works show an elevated level of technique, one is struck by the ambiguity of the concept. Given how versatile dance is, any movement could express dance. Perhaps that is part of the point. One of the most illustrative pieces is Oscar Kibuuka’s image that captures people in the background on the stairs of an unfinished building watching a breakdancer. The freeze-frame and composition locks in the experience and that fleeting moment.
This rehanging of the work is the final part in what seems to be a natural progression where artists and curators grew to form thematic work.
Dominic Muwanguzi on DAPU
According to Disability Arts Project Uganda Director Fred Batale, the project was founded in February 2013. They have ten members in the training space, all from different parts of kampala. When asked about the challenges to produce what they have, Batale remarked “ It’s important to have an income generating activity, and not depend on handouts all the time. Some disabled people are still reluctant to join because they still have self pity and think they cannot do anything but ask for handouts.”
The work on display reflects the physical and emotional ability of these people. Items are made from organic materials that are accessible within the community. In a way, the artworks represents their passion for life. For example, the handmade bowls made by children from banana fibres and the paper beads can be symbolic of dreams and aspirations. Paintings that show wild animals are part of the love for nature and the viability of selling to a foreign tourist.
Keziah Ayikoru Elaine on Dreams by Allan Ivan Bwambale
Dreams, according to the artist, ask the viewer: “To think that dreams, a fantasy, a vision like myth, could be captured in sculpture.”
Ivan combines scrap metal and a psychological concept into a physical, tangible product. Captivated by the abstract nature of dreams, he describes them as having various stages. When asked about his medium of choice, he depicts the stages of a dream in rusted and weathered metal.
A striking feature of his pieces are the large round eyes. These could be interpreted as being in a state of shock, quite the opposite of a peaceful dream. For him it is more about the mystery and the depths of the hollow shape which draws the viewer into that possibility. He remarks, “No matter how peaceful a dream is, one always wonders what the dream might have meant.”
The main components of his work the Ascension and the The Trio show a processual form of having phases of a dream in the latter and waking up in the former. These freestyle pieces emerged with some sort of spiritual dimension, embodied in the refuse of discarded industry.
Bryony Bodimeade on Daddy, Can I Play? By Immaculate Andreu Mali (metal, bottle tops, broken glass)
Photographic documentation of Mali’s sculptural installation presents the viewer with an unnerving unimaginable construction of a children’s playground within Muyenga, Kampala’s urban quarry site. Her sculptural objects are made of scrap metal, hair braids and arranged amongst industrial machinery. This use primary colours and bright daylight inspires the curiosity of familiarity, thus tempting the child.
The social rot revealed through each piece demonstrates a transformation of scrap material into forms re-imagined in a world that is both sinister and hopeful. The grainy quality of the photographs links the decay of the machinery, the broken glass and the bottle caps with the documentation of failed community rejuvenation projects, and vandalised suburban parks. The true balance is held between the permeable layer of pleasure and the severed innocence, that is literally cut by the danger of glass and rust.
Serubiri Moses on Nfurikaayo-Can-Chayi by Xenson
Mixed media of beer cans, chicken wire; projections of video on trees; four piece band and poetry performance.
Xenson (Samson Senkaaba b. Uganda 1983)
“I need a good mic.” These were words of criticism outside Xenson’s performance. He called out his sound engineer adding, “If you can’t afford the game quit the game.”
Xenson sounded impeachable. His criticisms would dominate an experience which sought not to be defined. The performance art screamed anarchy at critics looking for the right adjectives.
“Whoever is not around has missed it,” he told me earlier when I asked for some quick facts about the performative exhibition.
South Africa curator and academic Gabi Ngcobo called it, “the performance of a performance of a performance”. As opposed to characters in a play, she said, “This is something more connected to life.” Told to us by a self-proclaimed Luwero village boy, grown from a town a few hundred miles north of Kampala, Uganda.
Ushering us with disco lights, Afro-jazz, and Spoken Word, he positioned us in a heap of rubbish while he rapped about children born in sewers.
The arranged production line of commercial beer cans was a criticism of Uganda’s Capitalistic society and by being funnelled inside the beer cans we became implicated in his message: “I viciously rape the constitution, and render it absolutely obsolete.” Therefore, we were subverted by Xenson for his cause.
Xenson commanded this sphere of power in proclaiming himself, “the epitome of citizen criticism.”
Photography by Alex Lyons