Wednesday, 25 September 2013

40 Twists - Exhibition Curator Sheila Black - Kampala 2013


Why does the artist do this? Cover herself in 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.

What is this work about and why is of any significance? Let me try and communicate this as clearly as possible. This is the best show on earth. This is a landmark exhibition of black African art. It is so forward thinking it should be shown in years to come. Together, we are standing at the edge of an exciting and novel journey into Art. How shows should be constructed is under discussion and the theory so far, is that they should be created with tenderness, that gently guides the audience through the shows. Each show clearly expressing an overall thought-process of the artist and developing a sense of constructive joined-up thinking. The journey begins at the beginning and we are the observers of a new dawn coming from Guerilla Artists from Uganda. A wave of thinking that may well sweep you off your feet, like a wind sculpture - each show created by this group at @rtpunch Studio are playfully developed and this is intentional to give a sense of inclusion rather than exclusion. To wash away the past and welcome in the future. This sense of artistic generosity is highly infectious. The BA artists are fully aware that contemporary art is not commonplace in Ugandan society. It is yet to be fully appreciated or understood but this milestone exhibition breaks the mould and gives modern Uganda a sense of importance and value.

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...

What is important to note is that this Exhibiton takes place in the @rtpunch Studios themselves in the capital, Kampala. The doors to Modern Ugandan Art have been flung wide-open to a fresh audience. A much younger, proactive group of individuals. The upwardly mobile in Uganda. The thinking classes of the country and those that want to empower themselves with an interest in the development of culture from within. This show was solely funded by the pioneer, Wasswa Donald, the artists that spearheaded the @rtpunch Studios over a decade ago. The group have been irritated by being at the mercy of external support and often denied access to funding. Incensed by the comments made by David Adjaye and Simon Njami last year, expressing their opinions that the country was visually not ready to be seen Internationally. The group was so outraged by these bizarre judgements by complete strangers that, that became the challenge: To create a series of shows worthy of export. The group have worked exceedingly hard to push their artistic ideas forward, especially in regards to the ways in which, they want to world to see them, their country and their works of Art. Previously, shows have been exhibited only to the elite, in the Country Clubs or at the European Institutions. These external aspects of Africa, although with good intent, have had a stranglehold over the intellectual Africans for generations. They have been the Patrons of African Culture and quietly cherry-picking acceptable artists to show.

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.

This is the first of it's kind and with the advancement in Social Networking and Social Media delivering important shows from the capitals of African Nations and also exposing to the wider world has never been easier.

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

No comments: