transFORM#1: A conversation with Afriart Gallery Art director Daudi Karungi

Photograph by Sarah Waiswa. Product Of Your Environment (2015)

The transFORM #1 Contemporary Art Experience is happening this Saturday 5th December at a warehouse behind the Nakumatt in Bukoto. The event, which is organised in partnership with the Goethe Zentrum Kampala, is widely advertised in the media as an art experience with exhibition and after party with South African DJs. Startjournal met with the organiser Daudi Karungi to find out what was the rational behind the event. 

Interview by Dominic Muwanguzi


Daudi: To promote contemporary art to people in Uganda. We have noted that every time we have an exhibition the same audience of people come around and only a few buy the art. This means the art produced is only seen by a few and appreciated by a few. Also in this day and age, it is a shame not to appreciate art because it is linked to every aspect of life: be it politics, intellectualism and our environment. This is evident in the subjects artists are working with in their art such as racism, climate change, immigration and terrorism interpreted by artists in a contemporary context. So we want everyone to engage with and learn about contemporary art because it can enrich your life, regardless whether you buy it or not, just like is the case with music or literature.

The show itself has different elements all geared to transform the space and the mindset of the audience; an interactive art space where people will work with trash and transform it into artwork. This way, every aspect of Transform#1 will be transformative.

START: Why a warehouse which is of course a non-traditional art space?

Daudi: It was intentional to get people out of their known zone and take time to appreciate art in a different environment. In the traditional art spaces like galleries, people come with preconceived ideas like; art is expensive, it’s for intellectuals etc, and this is the reason we decided to take it out. Exposing art to people in an environment they are not familiar with will create either discomfort or a big ‘wow’ moment in their minds; they will wonder how a warehouse can host an art show and be surprised about certain installations. It is an experience that they will live with for a long time. In doing this, we will have transformed their perception about art.

The warehouse behind Nakumatt Bukoto where transFORM#1 will take place on 5th December
The warehouse behind Nakumatt Bukoto where transFORM#1 will take place on 5th December

START: Are you working with a curator for this Exhibition?

Daudi: TransFORM is an Afriart gallery annual exhibition and we thought that for this maiden installment, I as the resident artistic director of Afriart would produce it. When targeting a certain audience like the one we are looking at for transform, the concept of the event has to originate from one source and then branch out in segments to different partners. We want to set the guidelines for future transFORM(s) and we will definitely invite curators for the subsequent transform exhibitions.

The list of artists that will participate in the transFORM#1 exhibition.
The list of artists that will participate in the transFORM#1 exhibition.

START: Organizing an event of this magnitude requires a lot finance and time. What is your opinion on art funding?

Daudi: Yes, it is true it has cost us a lot of money and time but we have an obligation to propagate local art funding. As a gallery we have been strategic in our planning. We are targeting a minimum of one thousand people (if we get these numbers, it will be the biggest art audience attending a visual art show in one weekend!). Our strategy is to have a business entity which can benefit from these one thousand people. There are certain niche brands like Nile Gold (sponsors of TransFORM) and local SME’s that are fast growing (strategically) that would benefit from this audience (e.g. Roke Telkom, Media world and QG Group, which are also sponsors of transFORM). Using the batter approach, we invite these companies and ask them to identify specific aspects of the event that they can benefit from. This helps us to offset the cost of the event.

START: What makes a successful art exhibition?

Daudi: Firstly, one needs to have good art. If the art is good, it will create reaction from the audience. Secondly, you need to have good systems of marketing towards your preferred audience: the people you are targeting. For this event we know the type of people we are targeting: artists, art oriented people- the middle class and people interested in contemporary living in Kampala. TransFORM as an art show has paid attention to these two elements and we can guarantee a ‘wow experience’ for our audience, not only this year but every next year to come.

Photograph by Sarah Waiswa. Product Of Your Environment (2015)
One of the artists showing. Sarah Waiswa: Product Of Your Environment (2015)

START: How did you come up with the idea of having TransFORM at the end of the year?

Daudi: The initial idea was to have this big art show for two days in the beginning of the year, but the idea was overrun by a number of occurrences and we kept on postponing until we decided to make it our last show of the year. It is a convenient time based on the fact that many people are winding down because they have less work to do at the office. The show has an art party and this will be the beginning of the festive season for many people in the arts; kick-starting the Christmas season on a high arty note! Such an opportune time has already influenced us to make it an annual art event that happens every first Saturday of December.

START: Should we expect more of such ideas from Afriart?

Daudi: Yes of course.  Such an idea is a response to the rapid growth of the contemporary art industry world-wide.  The art sector is changing so fast internationally and yet here in Uganda there’s still that gap to respond to that growth. Our artists and galleries need to create an international link to change that through their art. TransFORM is taking art out of the gallery to a warehouse and transforming every aspect of the traditional art exhibition to meet the global standards of art. Additionally, Afriart has this year been involved in two art shows outside Uganda: Johannesburg Art Fair and Kenya Art Fair. The idea behind participating in these fairs is to have an international engagement and exposure with artists and art managers that lead to creative thinking and work. It is no longer acceptable to produce mediocre art because the world has moved away from that.

Daudi Karungi is Director of Afriart gallery and Kampala Art Biennale.

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