Why does the artist do this? Cover herself in mud...so primitive the artist is in Uganda. So close to nature are the Bugandans and those found in the capital, Kampala. Have they all lost their way? Given up trying....leaving those running to be more like the Europeans well alone, and instead bathing in pools of mud like elephants in salt marshes. Look how the artist plays, like a child in a sandpit. See how happy she is being backward, primitive and honest. Watch her gleeful smiles that encourage the viewers to giggle, courting our attention with her native loveliness. Is the artist wanting to be exotic? I don't think so. Not for one moment as this is well orchestrated art, with an attention to the details. It is constructed with intent and full of positive meaning; some may say we are witnesses to a moment of deconstruction and a going backwards, desperately trying to understanding the past and all that has gone before. A returning to the earth and a break from all protocols, in order to reconstruct the way in which Modern Ugandan art is seen and appreciated. Firstly, at home with those inside the country finding affinities to the work, in order to export out to the wider world, with the approval of the Ugandans over and above all else. These works are the language of African artists and this work is bold, it is Afropunk that makes punk look so last-century. There is an edginess to the images. To the rawness of the ground walked upon by modern Ugandans, a place where all the tarmac has run off and left the country. Where roadworks begin and end too early. Nothing is finished, all is a work in progress.
The background to this story begins with the arts and crafts on the streets of Kampala. The basket-weavers and the paper-twisters are those that are amongst the lowest class of Ugandan society, the ill-educated underclass, whose beautiful and talented works are often overlooked and ignored as trash. This is a best place for our journey to begin...
This exhibition marks a sea-change in that thinking. It intelligently interacts with all aspects of Ugandan identity and proudly displays artworks, which reflect the tapestries-makers, paper-twisters and weaves, placing them all under a different light. Magnifying their importance and empathises these distinct elements that make up the National identity. This is a very important contemporary show, that defines the Nation in an open and expressive manner. It heralds in a modern innovative direction. A guide to an original cultural development of Africa and acts as a blueprint for other Nations to follow.
Sheila is a "National Treasure" and this show should be regarded as a celebration of Cultural
Independence throughout the Continent. It would be a shame to break it up into pieces and have it ignored, silenced, if not censored by Collectors and art-lovers. This is a show of such integrity it should be shown international to encourage inspiration to artists within the Continent. "40 Twists" defines the role of the artist and outlines what is needed in shaping Africa's own cultural development. Hopefully, this show will encourage Museums that focus on Africa today, to take a much closer look in what is shaping up on the Continent itself. This beacon of an Exhibition, "40 Twists" by Sheila Black was housed in the art studios in Kampala and viewed by the world; it is arguably one of the best shows on earth.
Author: Joe Pollitt