In her first solo exhibition Christine Nyatho taps into the unstoppable life force of motherhood. The artist pays tribute to a character she calls Kafunda Mama referencing the little roadside shops called Kafunda (“little place” in Luganda) that sell alcohol besides many other things and often double as a bar and a social space.
Kafundas are informal businesses (though some might call them institutions in Kampala) and are often operated by women as an accessible way to create an income. Nyatho’s Kafunda Mama is the mother hustling for her family, waking up in the dead of night to prepare her business, cooking by the roadside, providing passersby with a hearty meal or school children with a bag of homemade crisps. She does it all for her family. She is a nurturer and provider. She offers sanctuary under the umbrella of her care and determination. She is a doer, a maker of life. She is relentless, striking fear in your bones and planting love in your heart.
Working with barkcloth, Nyatho choses to expose stiches added by the craftsman, little scars originating from the process of the material’s production: Barkcloth is created by beating the bark of the Natal Fig tree to flatten it out to a thin fabric. Wherever the cloth breaks in this process, the craftsman stitch it back together. Nyatho deliberately choses parts of the barkcloth that are covered with these signs of tearing and healing and surrounds them with her own embroidery in the form of delicate, undulating lines of thread that are expanding between circular shapes and floral or avian imagery, giving form to joyful Goddesses radiating growth in all their being without hiding their wounds. In the circles composing her mothers’ silhouettes Nyatho expresses her longstanding fascination with the moon and its remarkable effect on life on earth. The moon controls the seasons and tides and – some say – our every mood and state of being. Drawing silent circles around the earth it keeps the planet on course and the cycles of life in movement. The moon is the mother to everything, a protector, a vital spark that overpowers separation through infinite connectedness.
Nyatho’s work is a declaration of love to the givers of love, thereby completing a cycle of its own. It speaks to the overflowing vibrancy of female energy that is ungraspable in its creative force. Both tender and resilient, it is weaving the tapestry of life itself.