Artists and Politics: Brief


Artists and politics

What is the relationship between artists and politics? Is this a subject they include in their art?

Fred Mutebi’s exhibition, Queens Forever, showing at Afriart gallery, Kampala is a metaphor to the present political climate in Uganda. The artist figuratively presents the subject of women as queens, alluding to their political ability.

“The men have failed this country. I think it is now time for a woman President,” he says.

Such advocacy conjures the role of the artist as a social commentator and critic. Mutebi’s other exhibitions like, Uganda at 50 and  Kampala Sky, have also focused on themes of corruption, greed and nepotism that define Uganda’s politics today. Yet the artist avoids subjectivity (unlike politicians of the day) in his art by opening up debate. The technique of employing a different color scheme for each series of art work and creating allusions of big and small baskets ( a recurring motif in many of his wood cut prints) evokes the aspect of dialogue and debate.

Resting Qeens 2
Resting Queens, wood cut print, by Fred Mutebi. Image courtesy of Afriart Gallery

To his audience, the artist is an intelligent and creative character who uses his talent to question the political status quo and attract the attention of public to the women’s cause. Like his contemporaries, Dr. Kizito Maria Kasule and Dr. Angello Kakande who defy the norm of art presentation and create art with political overtones in this era of political despondency, Mutebi is perceived as a steel-willed artist within the industry.

Art can be used to check the political injustices of any regime. The art works of Mutebi and others show just that. With the politicians conspicuously missing at these shows, it is an indicator that they’re deliberately turning a blind eye to the needs of the community they should be serving. Albeit their absence, the public appreciates that they are not standing alone in the fight for change. The artist is their closest ally as a political emissary.