Afriart Gallery, Kampala, Uganda
09 Apr 2022 - 11 Jun 2022
‘Where the Wild Things are’ is a space, a mindset, a refuge and a force, which, in this exhibition, manifests as a diverse selection of artworks by young and emerging artists from Uganda.
Participating Artists: Charlene Komuntale, Emmie Nume, Mona Taha, Odur, Richard Atugonza, Switzin Twikirize
Being a young artist living and working in an African country remains a challenging endeavor. One thing all artists in this exhibition have in common is the leap of faith they took to pursue their passion and journey as artists amidst many odds. Often young artists are misunderstood and under-appreciated by their communities, family and friends, receive little or no support on a national level and face a scarcity of learning, funding, exhibition and residency opportunities, as well as access to art galleries.
Internationally, they get a seat at some tables. At some they get offered a seat, but are expected to bow their heads and pretend it is a privilege, not their right to be seated. Other tables still have a ‘reserved’ sign, even though you might spot an empty seat.
Whether critiquing patriarchal power structures intertwined with local culture, drawing upon neo-colonial politics or debating one’s identity – the perseverance to follow through against the odds they face unites all artists in this exhibition.
A common focus lies in portraiture of self or of people in the artists’ communities, which hints at where inspiration and subject matter is grounded. This new generation of young artists working in Uganda, proudly makes a point to tell their stories to the world – seen through their own eyes and materialized through their own hands.
The exhibition presents powerful perspectives on and by East African women. While using self-portraiture as a medium, Mona Taha, for instance, explores what it means to be a young, Muslim woman and mother in her community. Charlene Komuntale creates poetic critiques of dominant, male-centered perspectives on women’s roles and supposedly nature-given capabilities and constraints attached to female bodies.
Drawings by Emmie Nume focus on portraiture as well. While he captures the essence of emotions through spontaneous and free expression, many of his portraits originate from a person he has seen, but may morph into an imaginary human being as it is not the person the artist is aiming to depict, but rather uses them as vehicles to delve into a thought or a question.
‘Where the wild things are’ is a homage to those who persevere to create their own rules, who invent and re-invent themselves against the backdrop of their own terms, and who proudly carve out unspoken futures. The exhibition celebrates the passion and confidence these artists present, fuelled by the fire ignited by finding their voice as artists.
* The title of the exhibition borrows from the song ‘Wild Things’ by Alessia Cara.