The art we make, the words we profess

By Margaret Nagawa

It is almost a year since the rebirth of Start journal. Artists write about their work and that of other artists.

Editor in Chief Margaret Nagawa

Art historians theorise and contextualise art, locating the social and political circumstances out of which it arises. Exhibition reviews are invaluable, as are readers’ comments both digitally on the journal pages and in live conversations.

New publishing strategy

This issue is a departure from the ideal we set ourselves in that crucial meeting in September 2016 where we, the artist community in Kampala, decided to re-launch Start Journal and publish it on a quarterly basis. This time we posted texts as they got ready instead of waiting to make a volume at a pre-set quarterly timeframe. Therefore, some of these articles might be familiar.

Issue July – October 2017

Art and artists are central to Start Journal’s remit. We publish articles on artists working in residency, as collectives, in occasional collaboration, and as solo practitioners. To reveal some of these practices, we spoke to artist Ife Piankhi whose multimedia approach fuses poetry, recycled paper, and spoken word. Nikissi Serumaga-Jamo filmed Piankhi and Erika Holum reviewed her work. Alex Rogerson, on the other hand, presents his interpretation of a fraction of the enigmatic Canon Rumanzi in his equally poetic essay. Both Piankhi and Rumanzi focus on Kampala to explore identity through chance encounters, satirical conversations, faint traces, and surreal moments. In contrasting approaches, Rumanzi digitally manipulates his photographs while Piankhi builds them by hand-making the paper. In their different approaches, they both work intensively with their hands to create objects for viewers to encounter, with or without the artist’s mediation.

Start Journal Issue July – October 2017

Martha Kazungu reviews the annual Laba! Street Festival managed by Goethe Zentrum Kampala. In a rare candidness, she examines the shortcomings in the work of some of the collectives presented in the 2017 festival, while Gloria Kiconcho reviews a book illustration exhibition at Design Hub. Since book illustration is the most common art form children are exposed to, it is a wonder that we do not see more presentations of this kind. Design Hub, who hosted this exhibition, is a welcome addition to Kampala’s arts venues. Matt Kayem leads us further afield in his opinion piece on Damien Hirst in the marketplace, asserting that Hirst might be the best artist there ever was.

Startjournal continues to provide an independent platform for various artists, art forms and art collectives

These articles present disparate views but are united in their discussions of art practice. Collectives and collaborative stances exist among artists and are firmly rooted in art forms like dance, bark-cloth making and iron working. Some groups have existed briefly before ceasing their usefulness, for instance, Sabaa Artists Group in the 1990s, Index Mashariki in the 2000s, and Ngoma bridging the 1990s and 2000s. Other groups like Karibu Art Studio and Uganda Visual Artists and Designers Association (UVADA) thrive. There are also art spaces where individuals can work independently with institutional and collective support, for instance, 32° East / Ugandan Arts Trust. The curatorial challenge is to garner these art practices, present them to audiences through exhibitions, moving image, or text, while respecting their unique-nesses. As journal editors we respect the specific voices of the authors while extending this expectation to them in their handling of art and artists.

The submissions we receive are peer-reviewed to foster a supportive, mentoring process resulting in stimulating texts. The editors welcome a variety of viewpoints to broaden awareness, nurture broadmindedness, and perhaps ignite a departure from the predictable. I trust that you will find this issue insightful.

We enjoy hearing from you and welcome your responses to, and discussions of, the articles and images we publish.

Margaret Nagawa

Editor in Chief, Start Journal of Arts and Culture