The Observer | Simon Musasizi
Kampala will this August become the first city in Africa to host an art biennale.
Biennale is Italian for “biennial” or “every other year” and can be used to describe any event that happens every two years. Venice Biennale, the first art biennial to be held, in 1895, is among the most popular ones in the world.
Kampala Art Biennale now joins the list, thanks to Kampala Arts Trust, a collection of visual and performance art practitioners in Kampala. The biennial exhibition will showcase contemporary art from Africa with the goal to expose, educate and create debate about the value of art.
The one-month-long exhibition taking place at Uganda museum, Nommo gallery and Makerere art gallery has attracted 45 artists from 13 countries. However, there will be other venues that will stretch to upcountry towns. Running under the theme “Progressive Africa”, Kampala Art Biennale will engage African painters, photographers, illustrators, cartoonists, writers and all 2D media artists.
“Most renowned artistes are Africans living in the diaspora. This biennale has concentrated on artists living in Africa because they are most under-represented at major events,” noted Daudi Karungi, the brains behind the exhibition.
The renowned visual artist, who has practised for the last 15 years, says artists have exhibited in galleries and at international festivals, but there is a lot to be desired in the appreciation of art at home.
“There is need for exposure of Kampala as an arts city. That is why we came up with the art biennale, a grand art exhibition that will happen every two years,” Karungi said.
“We sent out calls allover Africa, focusing on 2D artwork for the purposes of a simple picture impression. We don’t want to confuse the public we are trying to introduce art to. We want the public that we are trying to lure to start with a picture before they get in more complicated things like installation and video art.”
Art, according to Karungi, is tourism.
“People plan their holiday when the biennale is going to happen if they want to go to Venice. So, we want people to plan their holidays to Uganda around August every other year, so that they can come and see the best of art in Africa while they see other things like wildlife,” he said.
The exhibition is supported by Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), Nile Gold, Bollore Africa Logistics, Fotogenix, The Hub, Bayimba and SMS media, among others. UTB’s CEO Steven Asiimwe said the exhibition is a new competitive edge against the country’s neighbours.
“We believe this event will bring out the best in our people and see more visitors coming into the country,” Asiimwe said.
He also revealed that as a way of making the country more competitive, UTB will soon unveil the cuisine day where they will showcase Uganda’s unique food such as luwombo, atapa, malewa and mugoyo.