Hellen Nabukenya: Tuwaye – Let’s talk

Brandenburgisches Landesmuseum für moderne Kunst, Cottbus, Germany
23 Mar 2019 - 12 May 2019

Hellen Nabukenya, Cyetuva, 2015–2018, scrap-textiles, sisal, clipping, © artist

Hellen Nabukenya, Cyetuva, 2015–2018, scrap-textiles, sisal, clipping, © artist

Since March 22, 2019, the exhibition “Hellen Nabukenya. Tuwaye – Let’s talk” is shown at the Brandenburgisches Landesmuseum für moderne Kunst (BLMK, Brandenburg State Museum of Modern Art) in Cottbus. The exhibition can be visited until May 12, 2019.

The show is part of a series of exhibitions which dedicates itself to questions of the (post)colonial perspective, self-empowerment strategies and alterity concepts. Hellen Nabukenya has made a career walking the line between art and handcraft. Her latest works – carpets made of African fabric – now premieres in Germany. A group of women manufactured her designs for extensive installations by hand, using only scrap-textiles. While working for her, the artist passed on her tailoring expertise to this female collective who, in turn, was given the opportunity to self-empowerment through self- employment.

A large, colorful textile ground with folklore patterns in its details covers the floor of the exhibition room. A series of less colorful, but similarly crafted smaller carpets, support the enormous, vibrating textile rectangle. Nabukenyas work makes the viewer an offer: “Tuwaye – Let’s talk”. She invites us to transform the fabric of her artwork into the fabric of social discourse. Entering the art space and resting on the carpet is the first step to engaging with those female narratives that are woven into Hellen’s work. Six of such narratives can be heard in the exhibition. Recorded in the wide-spread Ugandan language “Luganda”, they had first been translated into English before they received a German transfer.

“Some of my children died. My father also passed and I was in so much grief all my life. Ms Nabukenya Hellen began to support me and we became friends. I became curious about her and asked her what work she does. She told me they do some handcrafts. […] These handicrafts we bring gladness to our lives and forget our sorrows. We as women get together and learn from each other. […] Miss Nabukenya has become our good and dependable friend. She teaches us what we don’t know and we also teach her some things she doesn’t know. We cooperate and work together in a jovial environment.” Zaalika Namatovu

“When I came to Miss Nabukenya’s, my mind was enlightened. What you see as useless can actually be very useful. […] Also when we work, each one contributes only small parts which we then combine to make this final grand piece. It’s just like in a choir: the individual parts and voices combine to produce a beautiful sound. […] When you work at something collectively it’s more comprehensive and powerful than when a single person does it. This is because you can combine minds and ideas to create something phenomenal.” Nakalyowa Gladys

German artist Matthias Körner has been frequently working with Hellen Nabukenya since 2005. Today, artistic as well as documentary film are at the center of his attention. For the exhibition in Cottbus, he accompanied a single mother of six children who worked for Nabukenya and documented their everyday lives.

Hellen Nabukenya was born in 1983 in Jinja, Uganda and is currently living in Kampala. After finishing her studies at the Kyambogo University, she has co-founded the Art Punch Studio – an atelier and exhibition space in Kampala. So far, her works were shown in Denmark, France, South-Africa and Uganda.



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