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A vibrant art scene in Uganda mirrors African boom as more collectors show interest

by Ryan Lee
6 comments
Ugandan Art Renaissance

The burgeoning art scene in Uganda reflects the broader artistic renaissance happening across Africa, attracting the attention of an increasing number of art collectors. In the 1990s, Kampala, Uganda’s capital, had just one commercial art gallery, making it challenging for emerging artists to showcase their work. However, today, there are at least six galleries in the city, providing more opportunities for local artists like Lilian Nabulime.

Nabulime’s current solo exhibition, running until December 20, exemplifies the expanding artistic landscape in Uganda. She approached Xenson Art Space for the chance to display her work, which features terracotta pieces adorned with distorted facial features, symbolizing the world of urban “gossip.” This growth in artistic spaces has given local artists, who once struggled for recognition, a platform to express themselves.

This trend in Uganda mirrors a broader movement in Africa, fueled by a surge in compelling new art and the increased reach of African curators to connect with collectors worldwide. Notable examples include Ivorian painter Aboudia outselling Damien Hirst in 2022 and an Ethiopian-born artist, Julie Mehretu, fetching a record $10.7 million for her artwork at auction.

Efforts to nurture and promote Ugandan artists have also expanded. Daudi Karungi, founder of Kampala’s Afriart Gallery, runs a training program for artists and helps them gain international visibility by showcasing their work at art fairs abroad. This approach is essential in promoting Ugandan art on a global scale.

Furthermore, alternative art spaces have emerged, such as a disused banking hall in Masaka, fostering a vibrant artistic community previously unimaginable. Artists like Godwin Champs Namuyimba have seen their work sold for substantial sums in Europe despite being relatively unknown in their homeland.

Nairobi’s regular art auction has contributed to the reevaluation of Ugandan artists like Geoffrey Mukasa, whose work now commands significant prices, creating a secondary market for collectors.

While the art scene in Kampala is intellectually engaged, with the influence of the Makerere University art school, Uganda’s collecting class remains small. Gallerists struggle to make sales, often relying on collectors outside Uganda. Nevertheless, optimism persists, with more Ugandans beginning to see art as an attractive investment option.

In 2022, the Contemporary Art Society of Uganda was formed, aiming to promote private and corporate art collections in the country. Each member is encouraged to collect at least one Ugandan artwork annually, offering opportunities for emerging artists and preserving Africa’s unique cultural heritage.

Ugandan attorney Linda Mutesi, a member of the society, emphasized the importance of retaining Africa’s artistic treasures. She sees art collecting as a principled effort to prevent the exodus of cultural assets from the continent and ensure that these works remain in Africa. This reflects a growing awareness among the African middle class of the value of their cultural heritage.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Ugandan Art Renaissance

What is the significance of the growing art scene in Uganda?

The growing art scene in Uganda signifies a remarkable shift in the country’s cultural landscape. It reflects increased opportunities for local artists, greater international recognition, and the emergence of a vibrant artistic community.

How has the art scene in Kampala evolved over the years?

In the 1990s, Kampala had just one commercial art gallery, making it challenging for emerging artists. However, today, there are at least six galleries in the city, providing more opportunities for artists to showcase their work.

What are some notable achievements in Ugandan art in recent years?

Notable achievements include Ivorian painter Aboudia outselling Damien Hirst in 2022 and an Ethiopian-born artist, Julie Mehretu, fetching a record $10.7 million for her artwork at auction, highlighting the growing global interest in African art.

How are curators and galleries contributing to the development of Ugandan art?

Curators and galleries, such as Afriart Gallery, run training programs for artists and help them gain international visibility by showcasing their work at art fairs abroad. They play a crucial role in nurturing and promoting Ugandan talent.

What initiatives are aimed at expanding art collecting in Uganda?

The Contemporary Art Society of Uganda encourages individuals to collect Ugandan art, creating opportunities for emerging artists and safeguarding Africa’s unique cultural resources. This initiative aims to prevent the exodus of cultural assets from the continent.

What challenges does the Ugandan art scene face?

Despite its growth, the Ugandan art scene still faces challenges such as a small local collecting class and a reliance on international collectors for sales. Gallerists struggle to make sales locally, hindering the development of a self-sustaining art market.

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6 comments

ArtLover23 December 17, 2023 - 12:08 am

Wow, the Ugandan art scene, so amazin it’s grown so much! n now we got 6 galleries in kampala, thats cool. but like, gallerists still havin a hard time sellin stuff locally, thats a bummer.

Reply
ArtExplorer December 17, 2023 - 2:02 am

It’s rly nice to see Ugandan artists gettin more attention on the global stage, Aboudia outsellin Damien Hirst, whoa! But yeah, more curators needed to make it big internationally.

Reply
CuriousCat December 17, 2023 - 6:15 am

ivorian Aboudia beatin’ hirst? amazin’! $$$

Reply
LocalArtFan December 17, 2023 - 1:49 pm

gud 2 c Ugandans lovin’ art, but stil need more local collecters.

Reply
GalleryOwner December 17, 2023 - 5:44 pm

we help artists shine global, proud of our work.

Reply
AfricaPride December 17, 2023 - 5:46 pm

keep Africa’s art in Africa, no more bleedin’ art out!

Reply

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