In this installation, Nakitende Sheila is working with barkcloth (Lubugo), which is not only thought to be the most ancient textile made by humanity but also possesses a significant cultural value among the Baganda people of Central Uganda. This important cultural significance and being a prerequisite of weaving led to the artisanal production process of bark cloth being declared a “Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage” by UNESCO in 2005 and added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 2008.
Okukomaga refers to the practice of crafting this permanently renewable bark from Mutuba without having to fell the fig tree. To allow the bark to regenerate, the exposed trunk is carefully wrapped with banana fibre. This practice of Kukomaga is passed down through the generations and Nakitende Sheila learned that her grandfather, who passed away when she was five, had crafted barkcloth as a hobby.
Needing to engage with traditional technology and using her knowledge of hand paper crafting, Nakitende began her creative and evolutionary journey to craft a new material from this ancient practice, pioneering unique hand-made ‘barkcloth paper’. Originally perceived as a marker for social and cultural traditions (and resistance), Nakitende has advanced the cloth into a new material.
Focusing on the process of transformation and informed by ancestors, this installation is a metaphorical representation of the artist’s late grandfather’s home. It offers insights into the reactivation of hand- crafting techniques like paper making, weaving and stitching. It showcases the performance of the human relationship with nature, patriarchy, colonization, urbanization and cultural advancement. Through a detailed examination of material culture, the installation is commenting on the human condition and its environment.
The installation will be the subject of a panel discussion composed of Dr. Sylvia Tamale, Dr. Angelo Kakande, Mugarura Don and Nakitende Sheila at an invite only launching event on the 1st April. An additional participatory program in the form of a workshop on the 4th April at the Goethe Institute will explore a number of themes. These include culture, knowledge, and transdisciplinary approaches with traditional custodians and the academic community. The installation will then move to Berlin, Germany for presentation in May 2022.
Nakitende is a multi-disciplinary artist whose practice focuses on womanhood experiences that include nurturing, preserving our aesthetics, material culture and methodological history while addressing current influences, challenges and transformations. She participated in the Kampala Art Biennale and Kampala Art Auction 2016 and has exhibited in Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Belgium, Austria and USA. She is also a recipient of a Women’s Studio Workshop Parent Residency grant.
Venue: Chemistry Lab, Chemistry Department, Makerere University, Kampala (On Campus) Open to Public: Saturday 02 – Monday 04 April 2022 – 9am – 6pm