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Radiance of Ugandan art at the 59th edition of Venice Biennale

Collin Sekajugo and Pamela Acaye Kerunen, two Ugandan artists, will perform on the world's largest art stage from April 23 to November 27, 2022.

Collin Sekajugo and Pamela Acaye Kerunen, two Ugandan artists, will perform on the world’s largest art stage from April 23 to November 27, 2022.

It’s almost time to sing Ugandan art’s praises. Ugandan artists Collin Sekajugo and Pamela Acaye Kerunen’s debut appearance at the world’s largest art forum has catapulted Ugandan art into the international spotlight.

Little can be said about Sekajugo’s presence here because the artist already has global fame and a permanent exhibition of his work at the Smithsonian Museum, one of the world’s most prestigious art museums. Acaye’s entrance on the international art stage, particularly at the Venice Biennale, reflects the region’s often-mentioned maturity and growth in contemporary art.

Acaye represents lively and colorful emerging artists in Uganda and throughout the region. These are adamant about breaking Ugandan art’s bounds and the classification that comes with it: “not good enough for the international stage.” Their boldness in subjecting their work to experimental procedures, such as Acaye’s work, which blurs the lines between craft and art, has catapulted it into the international spotlight.

Those who have interacted with Acaye’s work have described it as handmade and socially sensitive. To develop a connection between herself and her immediate surroundings or cultural history, the artist collaborates with a group of women to make utilitarian and occasionally conceptual artworks crafted from indigenous materials. Objects like mats, beads, and baskets are important in her Alur culture’s day-to-day farmhouse life.

They serve not just social functions in the house, but also have a symbolic importance for the individual’s and family’s spiritual well-being.

These artefacts will also allude to the topic of environmental conservation, which has long been valued and respected by many African communities. Sekajugo’s multidisciplinary art, which frequently interrogates the theme of individual identity in a quickly globalized society, connects with her work’s multiple character. Sekajugo’s previous collection of work, which was shown in the exhibitions What is Beautiful 2018 and This is Uganda 2020, sparked discussions about multifaceted identities.

The subject Radiance- They Dream in Time for the Ugandan Pavilion was conceived because of the integration in meaning of both artists’ work and artistic processes; both artists deal with indigenous or discovered objects.

The subject conveys the idea of honoring Uganda’s vibrant visual culture while emphasizing on art’s global character.

“Both artists have been actively working with official and informal archives of Uganda’s dynamic visual culture,” said the curator of the Ugandan exhibition. The Ugandan Pavilion’s strength at the Biennale is largely due to the mutual creative ties highlighted before.

With the artists’ presentation of art that transmits and investigates the utilization of indigenous elements and materials in art creating, the audience will be able to experience “a dynamic visual culture of Ugandan art.” More importantly, the engagement will spark discussion about the role of socially conscious art on the global art stage.

The debut of Ugandan artists in Venice will continue to arouse interest both in Uganda and beyond. The Ugandan Pavilion will be a focus of attention for artists, art critics, collectors, and gallerists for the next seven months as the Biennale welcomes people from all over the world.

Sekajugo has already stated that their debut in the United States is a significant chance not just for themselves, but also for artists from their own country.

Indeed, international art news networks and journals have endorsed the Ugandan Pavilion as one of the places where visitors should keep an eye out. However, in the midst of this joy, artists must consider the future.

Now that Ugandan art has arrived on the international scene, where it has always desired to be, let the artists and other industry players work for a long-term presence at international art festivals.

A pavilion at the Venice Biennale may not be enough, but establishing viable art infrastructures at home will undoubtedly be a positive step forward. This would ensure that Ugandan artists are represented on such international art forums on a regular basis.

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