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Facing the crisis through art

Some of the pieces showcased at the My Mother is Forgetting My Face art exhibition in Norway. Sticking out is Lilian Nabulime’s Angel. PHOTOS | COURTESY

Art has always been taunted as a way of life. Come rain, shine, calm or disaster, people will always find a way to celebrate the gift of art.

This, for instance, can be said of this year; the Covid-19 pandemic brought humanity, as it is known to many, to a halt, yet for some reason, art refused to stop.
Even when people could not move, they made music, films and now that many countries have been easing their lockdowns, visual art especially has been on a roll.

Ugandan visual artists both in and out of the country have been busy showcasing works but above it all, contributing to the Covid-19 narrative in the way they know best.
One of such activations is an art exhibition at Entrée, an art gallery in Bergen, Norway.

The gallery is a host to the exhibition My Mother is Forgetting My Face; the multi-discipline exhibition brings together Norwegian mixed media artist Maria Brinch alongside Ugandan artists Miriam Watsemba, a documentary photographer, Bathsheba Okwenje, an installation artist and Lilian Nabulime, a renowned sculptor.

The artists’ works are mirroring situations in three nations; South Sudan, Myanmar and Uganda. Brinch, for instance, does a commentary on the resilience of the people of Myanmar in the time of crisis.

The Never Far Away series which Brinch’s works at the exhibition is part of, uses cloth art or textile to show human presence in a public space under oppression and poverty.

She says, on the streets of Yangon Myanmar in 2008, she experienced women in her neighbourhood hanging out their washed clothes on their way to work and collecting them on their way back home. In these gestures, Brinch saw a pattern of hope.

Watsemba uses photography documentation, Beyond the Scar, to narrate the story of one of the victims of the South Sudanese civil war and their struggle to heal physically and emotionally.

On the other hand Okwenje captures voices of nature, singing birds and humans, especially women panting after escaping the war in South Sudan to Uganda.

Nabulime’s works always come in big sizes, thus get to be a focal point of many exhibitions she is part of. It is not different for this particular one. Her sculpture, Angel, stands out in this exhibition, considering the fact it has been part of the collection at the University Museum of Bergen since 2004.

But besides that, she has newer works that were aimed at addressing the Covid-19 situation in Uganda, how it has changed local societies and how a number of measures set by the government have affected life.

The exhibition comes at a time when the world is supposed to be battling a pandemic but in many ways, they are battling against each other.

For example, the tough Covid-19 guidelines that have in turn affected some communities more than the pandemic has done or those that have used the pandemic to exploit others, thus, mother nature, forgetting the humanity we are meant to embrace.

According to a note from Martha Kazungu, the exhibition curator, by choosing a relatable component of life, a mother, in the exhibition title: My Mother Is Forgetting My Face, was seeking to grab the attention of whoever has time to read.

But, after this, the title takes on a metaphorical meaning, where the mother is actually the nation and the face is actually the respective citizens of the concerned nation. In essence, the exhibition seeks to speak to the unspeakable injustices that nations render to their citizens.
The exhibition opened on August 29 and closes on October 11.

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