Lasting Reflections from Lubumbashi

By Robinah Nansubuga

Towards the end of 2013, DRCongo held its third Biennale in Lubumbashi. Recontres Picha Biennale as it is officially known, was attended by invited artists and professionals. The Picha Art Centre showed that the cloud of gloom that hangs over this region does not deter the production of meaningful art.

Though it was hard to distinguish the audience that the biennale was made for – if it’s for the people of Lubumbashi or the visitors or the participating artists – I couldn’t help to notice the excitement in the people of Lubumbashi. The support and awareness they gave their artists was enough to satisfy this curiosity and trust in curator Elvira Dyangani Ose.

Now, looking forward into 2014, I reflect on what that biennale meant; most importantly, what did I learn from such a unique experience? As Robinah Nansubuga, a young female Ugandan curator, this kind of regional exposure proves that we don’t need to look across oceans for inspiration, it might even be right around the corner.

Angela Ferreira’s public intervention Entrer dans la mine (Entering the mine), connected and engaged with a core audience. Her gas station show called on the public to be intermediaries between the producers of artworks and the power structures that affect society. The discourse of this site was presented in its local context and the language of its display was therefore understood by the majority of the audience. This piece made me think of artists back home in Uganda who make their work for the development of our local audience.

The networking of participants and presentations from both the artists and professionals was inspiring because we outlined expectations, challenges and experiences within different contexts; resulting in a discussion on how to collaborate to make a stronger art fraternity in Africa. For the development of the Ugandan art scene we have to have the visibility of Ugandan artists internationally and this is my cry out after Lubumbashi.

I continue to reflect on Lubumbashi and feel affirmed that discussions, spaces and documentation is the way to make the little we have into something bigger and better. Seeing that translating art for the audience is a fundamental problem, not a Ugandan one, or noticing all the dimensions of organisation involved in such an event, I am invigorated to repeat this experience in many different places and learn all along the way.

Robinah Nansubuga is a project manager at 32° East | Ugandan Arts Trust 

•For more on this unique event read Picha Art Centre’s Co Founder Patrick Mudekereza’s review in Contemporary &.