“Unmapped” – Who are the unheard voices of our cities? KLA ART 014, Kampala Contemporary Art Festival
This year Kampala residents are being treated to a wide range of original African art: August’s Kampala Art Biennale has been a highlight of 2014, and KLA ART 014, Kampala Contemporary Art Festival, this October is set to be equally enlightening.
Two years ago, my friend Robert announced that, rather than come drink beer with yours truly, he planned to give up his Saturday to visit some old shipping container in downtown Namuwongo. (The Muzungu has been stood up for less I suppose, but I digress…)
In fact, Robert was taking part in the inaugural KLA ART event, in which a number of old shipping containers were converted into art installations. It was their placement in and around various Kampala ‘no go areas’ that really caught my attention: here was art physically ‘going to the people’.
Inviting someone to a gallery is in a sense ‘preaching to the converted.’ A gallery visitor is someone who already ‘gets’ art, already appreciates art, who perhaps even already creates art.
A contemporary art festival, such as KLA ART 014, takes art to the next level: inviting Ugandans to think and talk about art, to express themselves through art – something they may have never done before.
KLA ART 014 is Kampala’s contemporary art festival.
Throughout the month of October, the festival is unveiling new artworks from 30 artists from Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Congo and Rwanda, asking the question:
‘Who are the unheard voices of our cities?’
According to Violet Nantume, Curatorial Committee, KLA ART 014:
“The bicycle knife sharpener; the express fashion designer; the mobile nail salon: they fill every corner of the city. ‘Unmapped’ will attempt to artistically showcase how people from every stratum of society adapt creatively to survive.”
Have you ever been inside Kampala Railway Station? Now’s your chance!
This free-to-attend Festival Exhibition features ten artists displaying their interpretation of Kampala’s “Unmapped.” (The Muzungu admitted to being very keen to have a nose around this iconic Kampala landmark and was delighted to be invited to the VIP preview).
At Kampala Railway Station the public has a chance to meet and discuss the artworks with the artists themselves.
Selected artists work on a variety of media, from paintings to sculpture, and fabrics to music.
Back in the heyday of the 1950s and 1960s day, regular Mail Trains ran from Kampala to Nairobi, as Malcolm McCrow’s wonderful old photos show.
Rocca Gutteridge, Project Director, KLA ART 014 says “KLA ART 014 offers a platform to showcase new and emerging ideas by contemporary Ugandan artists. KLA ART is a two-year process of thought, production and experimentation resulting in a unique festival, which directly links artists, artworks and audiences.”
The Boda Boda Project
At the VIP launch, we had a chance to meet the artists behind the Boda Boda Project who have transformed 20 boda boda (motorbikes) into public artworks. The Boda Boda project is all about giving Ugandans access to contemporary art and these 20 bodas will be ‘mapping’ the streets of Kampala throughout October, driving north, south, east and west to engage with the community and chat about contemporary art.
The KLA ART artists and their boda boda creations are creating temporary exhibitions in a variety of locations across the capital. An interactive recording studio and a travelling cinema are just two of the innovations that will be touring the streets of Kampala on boda bodas.
I can’t wait to see how the streets of Kampala are transformed by this mobile exhibition!
I wonder too what the first-time art visitor will make of some of the ‘weird and wonderful’ boda boda creations on display?
KLA ART comes at a time when Ugandans have been discussing this year’s census: when people have been asking themselves quite a fundamental question: “if I don’t register, then do I exist?” Will the “Unmapped” recognise themselves or their situation in these pieces of contemporary art? It will be interesting to hear the feedback.
Here is the KLA ART free programme of events showing where the 20 boda bodas will travel to each day between 4th and 31st October.
What’s more, the KLA ART 014 free programme of events includes:
- The Festival Exhibition – open every day at Kampala Railway Station from 10 am – 6 pm.
- The Boda Boda Project – launching every day from the Railway Station and driving from there to a different location in Kampala
- Studio tours every Wednesday during October
- A symposium
- Film screenings and
- ‘Street art intervention’, run by Weaver Bird
KLA ART 014 is organised by 32° East | Ugandan Arts Trust, a centre for the exploration and creation of contemporary art in Uganda www.ugandanartstrust.org The full list of partners and sponsors is here.
Underscoring the theme of accessibility, press information is also available in Luganda.
For the latest information on KLA ART 014, check out: