Collin Sekajugo: This is Uganda
Ongoing at Sulger-Buel Gallery is Collin Sekajugo’s solo exhibition This is Uganda.
“At the beginning of 2019, I extended my creative energy into exploring the social mechanisms that are embedded in the indescribable culture of my country of birth. As an aspiring global citizen, I’m yet to find the right words to describe what some would characterize as simply chaotic, or what others may refer to as beautiful and vibrant.
Whereas one might perceive the country as a total mess, others would passionately portray it as “gifted by nature”, “welcoming”, “generous and thriving”. Alongside all the freedoms of expression, movement and trade, inequality, habitual politicking, miseducation, misinformation and pervasive lawlessness thrive in equal measure. And, despite the clash of the positive and negative, the good and bad – Uganda takes pride in this reality. This is what makes us who we are as a nation. This is Uganda. C’est l’Ouganda.
Cows, goats, sheep, chickens, dogs roaming everywhere anytime.
Everyone is building anything anywhere anytime.
Everyone is selling, buying and disposing of everything everywhere.
Boda Bodas are everywhere carrying everyone and everything anytime.
Music is loud everywhere, voiceovers, posters advertising everything everywhere.
Everyone is saying anything to anyone anywhere
People don’t care, leaders don’t care.
Donors don’t care. Nobody cares.
This is freedom. This is Uganda.
This project is aimed at exploring the role of identity in the making of Uganda’s social fabric. It speaks to the tension between its fast-growing population versus the availability of public resources that are meant to cater to it. The backdrop of all the artworks in this project is performances wherein the quilted empty food sacs denote the seemingly endless need for humanitarian aid in poverty-stricken and refugee-hosting countries like Uganda.
As a multidisciplinary artist, whose main purpose is rooted in community development, I am strongly passionate about using this project as a steppingstone to engage the local and international communities in conversations and dialogue on Uganda’s most crucial issues that range from education standards and healthcare to environmental protection and public safety.
Along the way, I’m conceptualizing and contextualizing both mental and physical spaces where I create interactive artworks in different mediums i.e. mixed media on canvas, photography, installations and art performances.
Recycling is a significant part of my work. I’m therefore continuing to explore the use of locally sourced materials such as used polypropylene that denotes consumerism and bark cloth that represents Uganda’s cultural identity.”— Collin Sekajugo
Collin Sekajugo was born 1980 in Masaka, Uganda and lives and works between Rwanda and Uganda.
In 2007 after travelling around Eastern and Southern Africa on a series of study tours, Sekajugo returned to Rwanda with a vision of “Using Art to Change Lives”. This mission led him to open the first visual arts space in Kigali under the name Ivuka. During this time, Rwanda was seen as a newborn baby struggling to reconcile its turbulent past and reconstruct itself. Ivuka whose name connotes re-birth became a centre of hope for ambitious youth eager to explore life’s meaning through the arts. An incubator for creative activities, Ivuka includes a joint studio space for aspiring visual artists and a children’s traditional dance troupe, Rwamakondera (Rwandan horns) that brings together disadvantaged children and teaches them dance as a means of healing, educating and instilling in them a sense of hope for their future.
Inspired by the success of Ivuka and eager to extend this vision of using arts to catalyze change in his father’s birthplace, Masaka, Uganda, this self-taught artist expanded his scope to the village of Ndegeya. In 2010 Sekajugo started transforming the village into an arts destination under an initiative that he named Ndegeya Foundation. Ironically, Ndegeya is the local name for a Weaver Bird, which is recognized for its artistically elaborate nests, reinforcing the image of this environ as a birthplace of creativity and innovation. Today Ndegeya village boasts a sculpture park with camping facilities; a village art gallery; children’s library and a youth development centre. Additionally, Sekajugo runs an artists-in-residency program called Weaver Bird Residency for creatives that are eager to enjoy and seek inspirations from this special village while developing their artistic practices.
In 2017, Ivuka Arts Kigali celebrated its 10th anniversary. This important milestone has given Collin Sekajugo pause to sit back and reflect on how his humble initiative has inspired its alumni to open similar spaces such as the Uburanga Arts Studio, Inema Art Centre, Yego Art Centre and Niyo Arts Gallery.
Sekajugo’s artwork reflects on his social conscience, highlighting the link between art and community in Africa. Sekajugo has travelled extensively in Africa, Europe and North America, participating in international artists’ conferences, workshops and residencies through which he is quickly gaining international name recognition. His artwork holds the distinction of being a part of the permanent collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC, as well as other notable private and corporate collections in the US, Europe, Africa and Asia.
Collin Sekajugo is a winner of the 2019 Human Rights Award Uganda.
Collin Sekajugo’s This is Uganda runs until May 31 at Sulger-Buel Gallery.
April 08, 2021