Iwang Sawa (Alur for: “In the eye of time”) showcases contemporary artworks and installations which are made out of natural fibres like banana fibre, palm leaves, sisal, raffia, stripped sorghum stems and reeds. These materials are traditionally used by Ugandan artisans to create everyday functional objects like mats and baskets.
This collaboration between Acaye.E.Pamela as the curator/artist and artisans involved the commissioning of weaving artisans to make woven materials. The materials like Mikeka rolls, Biibo ,woven rings and bikapu were then curated and repurposed into non-functional pieces. The pieces assume conceptual meanings and draw on aesthetics of form, shape and texture. Iwang Sawa’s narrative is a multi-layered one, involving aspects of making, heritage, time, meaning,purpose and innovation.
The element of time is crucial since most Ugandan woven crafts are made from natural fibres. Time is reflected in how long the raw material takes to grow into harvest, its preparation from harvest to drying, dying, positioning, plotting, design, and finally the time it takes to weave, twine and knot these materials into craft products. And, when one considers the fact that, the many patterns used,especially, in mats have been passed down from generation to generation. Or, that the skills in weaving and basketry have been here since before time remembers us; then, one realises that Iwang Sawa is, after all, a call towards heritage preservation and a celebration of the same.
The artworks in this exhibition are made by at least 30 women from Gulu, Kigorobya, Kyotera, Luwero,Mukono, Kabarole and Kampala in Uganda. Besides a physical exhibition, Iwang Sawa also features a podcast and documentary series which follows the journey of these re-made, woven artworks from the wetlands, where the materials are sourced, to the gallery.
Acaye E. Pamela Kerunen was awarded with a curatorial fellowship from Newcastle University to research and execute Iwang Sawa. Afriart Gallery supports this exhibition as a way to open doors for various communities and to bridge a gap between the traditional and contemporary worlds within visual artistic expression.