Thursday, August 2, 2007

Gallery Tour

Yesterday morning I joined the Community Liason Officer at the U.S. Embassy for a gallery tour with a local artist, Edison Mugalu. Almost every day I drive Kira Road past a sprawling market. From the road you can see T-shirts hanging on the side of shacks, shoes stacked on the ground, produce and meat, cloth and kitchenwares for sale by many different vendors. We turned into this market and went back behind the first row of buildings down a narrow mud lane to Edison’s studio, called Mona Arts, which he shares with another artist, Anwar Sadat.

A black metal fence encloses a small packed dirt yard. Edison and Anwar have painted murals along the fence in bright colors. One of Edison’s projects is painting murals on the walls of the slums around Kampala in an effort to build appreciation of art among all Ugandans and to beautify these areas in what ways he can.

The studio itself has been painted orange and inside the low-ceilinged concrete structure, a mixture of Edison’s and Anwar’s art hangs on the walls and is stacked along the walls. Edison shows me a scrapbook of articles that have been written about him. Glancing through the pieces, I notice that he was born in 1983 and that he is self-taught. He has been included in the East African Art Biennale and in the current issue of African Woman there is a three-page article about him.

Edison’s paintings seem to me a more sophisticated version of the traditional art we have seen in all the tourists traps. The subjects and style are similar—African women and fisherman for the most part—but Edison uses a lot more texture and his colors seem stronger. My photos of his art are not fantastic, but here are a couple of examples:

We made a brief stop at the French and German Cultural Society, where the director hails from Kassel and has instituted a monthly meeting for artists and displays local artists on a rotating basis. Right now they a few pieces up by Peter Otim:

Edison has also told us about a street art fair he participated in at the end of May where they painted potholes. The Cultural Society has some of these displayed in their courtyard:

From there we went to Peter Otim Designs, which just downstairs from the Iguana Bar, which J and I have frequented while lamenting that the gallery is not open at night. The gallery represents many other artists aside from Peter Otim, including, of course, Edison Mugalu and Anwar Sadat (as did all the galleries we visited). Then it was on to Tulifanya Gallery, which seems to be one of the more popular galleries in the city.

I really liked the work of Sane, this piece not as much as one the director of the German Cultural Society had in her office, but it shows his style:

And if I’m remembering correctly, these are by an artist named Sekasiko:

After a sandwich in the restaurant out front (with shockingly fast service), we drove to the Sheraton. I had never been in the Sheraton before, but have heard that before the arrival of the Serena and Emin Pasha, both very popular and upscale hotels, the Sheraton was the place to stay. It looks rather dingy from the outside, so I expected little and was surprised to find the lobby modern and clean and fresh in appearance. The gallery in the lobby is part of AidChild, meaning a portion of sales goes to supporting orphans with HIV/AIDS. Many of the artists represented here were the same as we had seen at the previous galleries.

Nommo Gallery was our last stop. The walls were in a need of a paint job, but their off-color, flaking appearance made the paintings themselves seem all the more vibrant. The current exhibition included many artists we hadn’t seen yet and a number of different styles. It was the first time I had seen any African artist use watercolor. Also the first place we had seen represent a female artist.

The larger painting in this photo is by Maria Naita and the watercolors by Joseph Mugisha.

Not sure of these artists, but some more examples from Nommo:

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