Showing from 14 October – 04 November, 2016
Not everything one does with good intentions ends with a good legacy. This is true also of the rulers and leaders of our past. Mukaabya Muteesa I’s legacies are felt today in the modern Ugandan politico-socio contraption. SANE is not carried away by the pedantic way that the visible or visual histories of Buganda are depicted as sacrosanct. He is inspired in this body of works by Andrea Stultiens’ studies on the impact and place of photographs on the Ugandan psyche.
When Andrea asked SANE to make a visual response to a photographic image depicting a seated potentate Mukaabya Muteesa I, she helped to focus SANE on revealing the nakedness of the character Muteesa I, not as the powerful god king of Buganda, but as an image of somebody who was once in the position to shape the future of not only the Buganda kingdom, but also of Bunyoro, Toro, Ankole and others. Uganda today is an image of Buganda’s collaboration with the British colonizer. Muteesa I, being an important purveyor of the colonial experiment on geographical Uganda, is looked at, along with Kabalega of Bunyoro as the most crucial players in Uganda’s colonization and by implication of the collapse of his own kingdom’s political power as well as the decimation of Bunyoro. SANE is drawn in this work to the wider Empire of Kitara and the resultant kingdoms of Bunyoro- Kitara, Buganda and others. He juxtaposes by appropriation, sometimes in comical fashion, and other times in a sardonic way, the uneasy visual placement of situations of political alliances made between erstwhile enemies, nemeses and friends.
SANE puts the different time contextual images together also. Present day leaders stand side by side, or front to back in playful or at times critical ways with Sekabaka Muteesa I and various local and exotic personalities to serve the purpose of placing commentary on present day Ugandan politics not as isolated events but as functions or even outcomes of histories and legacies such as Mukaabya’s. International power play provides useful backdrops to the internal struggles with depictions of characters of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Micheal Jackson, Anne Franck, Princess Diana, Mickey Cohen and others.
Muteesa I’s son, Mwanga also appears as an important anti-Christianisation force. Semei Kakungulu is portrayed as the agent of the Bristish Empire while Hamu Mukasa has a modern space also.
Also important in this work is SANE’s depiction of Christ as an africanised version of himself in adaptations of ‘La Pieta’ and ‘the Passion of the Christ’ drawing from photographs of Ugandan personalities as well as Renaissance and post- Renaissance artist like Carravaggio. SANE actually uses his own portraits when depicting his version of Christ.
Why the severed heads or body parts? This is simply an attempt at dissection of the characters of the players similar in a way to Cherie Samba’s peeling of bodies like oranges. The peeling or dissection serves to reveal the inner parts of the characters.
Why the obsession with Mukaabya? Muteesa I is an easily recognizable face in Uganda, but be as that may, little is discussed about how his character and policies as Buganda King have impacted the body-politic of today and also how little is discussed about him as a human being. He is not a god, like the Baganda like to portray him. This means that he achieved some things and also made mistakes. In SANE’s view, the discussion should be shifted, in from ‘Vva ku Baganda’ to ‘ Omuganda y’ani?’ He is also interested in discussing how the falsehoods that this nakedness in the dark presents for people who wish to mystify the person of the king and also silence meaningful critique of our political past. This legacy is firmly carried on in the theatrics of Parliament, and Government as a whole.
By looking at Muteesa I, SANE is by default commenting on Government today.
Why does SANE include self-portrayals in the work? As the story teller, SANE is interested in keeping the artist in political conversation as an important carrier of visual knowledge. The artist becomes the voice of the common people, not in the sense of solving problems for them, but being available to ask the questions the masses are asking. The artist should be visible in the art produced, as artists in the West have managed to achieve for centuries. The artist asks questions the people either wish not to ask, but also of the ones they forget to ask. Questions raised, may provide discussion of possibilities for change but SANE is not trying to answer the questions per se.
SANE is interested in using both iconography of Western Art and visual history of (B)Uganda to direct a new way of valuing the black face in Art.
Friday 14 October, 6 pm