Feats of Ugandan Pottery IV

In the midst of Buganda’s campaign to restore the glory of Buganda Kingdom spearheaded by its Prime Minister, Katikiro Charles Peter Mayiga, a group of young independent artists have dedicated their exhibition of ceramics and pottery to celebrating and creating awareness about one of the most important components of Buganda culture the totems of its clans.

The exhibition showing now at the Makerere Art gallery explores and discusses the totems that are attached to the more than fifty clans of the Baganda. The exhibit does not show all the totems, but what it does is select a few and use them as an example in this interesting visual display and marriage of both African traditional and contemporary art.

The result is a visual narrative that is both informative and aesthetically amusing.

Tony Bukenya’s installation of brown vases crafted out of terracotta (stained clay) is symbolic to the land totems like Bush buck (Ngabi), Antelope, Buffalo, and Lugave.

His other installation of a pair of bowls he tittles, Lugave, combines beauty, tradition and functionality.

“Lugave is my maternal clan. I did not want to display the animal (totem) only. I wanted to give it value addition. One can appreciate it as bowel, a decorative wall hanging, or as a reminder of their cultural heritage which is an image of Lugave (Pangolin).

Unlike Bukenya’s ceramics which are instructive, Balaba Edward’s work is conceptual.

Omumbejja, a geometrical object made out stained clay captures the graceful attributes associated with princesses as a central figure in the Buganda palace.

“Omumbejja is a sister to the Kabaka and is royalty. She welds power and authority-although not exactly like the Kabaka- hence, the horn-feature on one side,” says the artist.

There is also the wall hanging titled, Enkwanso (Male Sperms).

According to the artist, this is very central in Buganda households. Without it, the family cannot multiply to birth off-springs who become the Kabaka’s subject.

Besides the two artist’s work, they’re also works by young artists like Henry Bomboka, Stella Tendo, Derrick Muyanja, Andrew Ssekibaaala and Ben Kaye. Their work is a celebration of Buganda’s rich cultural heritage with a hint of experimentation in diverse art techniques.

“This exhibition is timely because it answers Katikiro’s call to all Baganda wherever they are to combine efforts to build the Kingdom and also feel proud of their cultural heritage,” says Tony Bukenya, the co-curator of the exhibition.

Notably, the objects on show are small in size because of the conscious idea that art works attain new environments.

The cultural exhibition is also a platform to inspire students of the faculty of Arts to become artists, especially those rooted in the local community. This approach is reminiscent of Mrs. Margaret Trowel who started the institution in 1937. Her ambition was to create a link between traditional art practices (pottery and ceramics) with western art practices (screen printing).

In its fourth year, Feats of Ugandan Pottery exhibition, has established itself as an artistic tradition that not only inspires young artists to work together, but continues the legacy of bridging the traditional art forms with the contemporary.

The exhibition will last for a month at the Makerere Art Gallery.

Source : The Independent

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