Prof Kirumira Returns With Cultural Artifacts

Makerere University’s Margaret Trowell school of industrial and fine art last Friday opened its art gallery, this time round to its own professor.

Prof Rose Namubiru Kirumira gave the exhibition all her best in terms of time, space and resources, producing rich wood and metal pieces. Running under the theme: Archives -Tradition and Artistic Inspiration, the exhibition intrigues you to think about your family, faith and environment.

But even when some of her pieces were made out of wood, Kirumira emphasised she did not cut down any trees she only used waste from already-cut tree species such as muvule and mahogany. Her main objective was to create awareness about Uganda’s material culture and fuel discussion on collective nationalism and its relationship with the skills developed by our ancestors.

The exhibition presents Kirumira’s work based on various traditional objects. In some ways, the works take certain traditional forms, patterns, technologies and functions. It was clear she preyed on culture to vent emotions and express herself.

Kirumira did not allow herself to be constrained by her own traditions, thus she exploited depths of different African and world cultures to get her message across.

Some of the pieces such as The Family Portrait and The Holy Family are combined with key locks she picked from a dumpster in Denmark and pieces of wood she collected from dustbins around the country. Kirumira is a skilled artist she masters sculptural techniques on a high level.

According to a statement by Katrin Peters, a curator at the school: “Her work and life trajectory are marked by cross-cutting artistic practice and scholarly research, of being firmly rooted in her local culture.”

The most sought-after piece on display is the Month of May a collection of used tea bags.

“It represents that particular month and the cycle of artistic production in relation to the monthly reproductive cycle,” Kirumira says.

The tea bags in the craft are at different stages of use and framed in a surgical band as a means of protection. The month of May is when she was attending the Thami Mnyele residency, in the Netherlands in 2003 where she collected the tea bags.

This piece of work has also been exhibited in Amsterdam at the Afrika Here and Now exhibition. Some of the pieces are personal. Thesis, for example, happens to be her PhD research.

The work has a pile of books placed on the few surviving colonial tables that were used at Makerere when it had just opened 91 years ago. She made the books out of organic materials and wood bits. Kirumira is a senior lecturer at the school.

She is one of the few widely-recognised and well-exhibited female sculptors in Uganda, also behind public monuments such as the statue of Kabaka Ronald Mutebi at Bulange, on which she worked under renowned Prof Francis Nnaggenda.

Source : The Observer

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