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Monday, March 30, 2009

Advocating for girl child education through art


Deserve the best is the title of a painting by Ugandan artist Yusuf Ssali. Two women have just given birth and several others have come to celebrate. The painting, which is on display among others in the ongoing women’s exhibition at Nommo Gallery, vividly captures the role of women in the continuity of the life circle.

The exhibition opened on Saturday under the theme, “Developing creative skills through girl-child education.” It was organised to celebrate Women’s Day through visual and artistic impressions. Incidentally, it’s the first time in the 13 years this annual exhibition has been running, that male artists have been allowed to exhibit.

“Originally, we were exhibiting only women but later on we found that men are also gender sensitive and therefore they should also be given a chance to give out their views through art on such exhibitions,” said Nommo Gallery manager, Jacqueline Ampaire.

A smart move it was, because the male exhibitors, with a clear grasp of the importance of this day to the Ugandan woman, brought in original works that ideally present women as deserving adoration, love, affection, or as Yusuf aptly put it, “the very best.”

Titled, I can handle, Juma Lutalo’s semi-abstract piece for example shows a woman with one eye closed and the other open “meaning that even when ladies are kept backward, they still have the insight and patience to handle most of all the family problems.” Lutalo plays a bit with colour patterns – mixing blue, yellow and red to depict the coolness of ladies; yellow to mean they are bright, and red to mean they also have blood like other human beings and should be treated as their male counterparts.”

But not all the displayed creations by male artists are on women. Henk Jonker, a Dutch artist who has lived here long enough to (artistically) comment on our city life, couldn’t miss out.

“Street life makes beautiful painting,” he said of his work, which shows the old park, complete with the boda-bodas, the buildings, billboards and generally the busy activity there. “Old Kampala the way it used to be in 1994 is kind of disappearing and this (the painting) is going to live forever, so I made the painting of the old city to preserve it,” said Henk. “10 years from now some people can refer to my work.”

To live up to the theme of the exhibition, the organisers worked with three schools: Greenhill Academy, Mengo SSS and St. Lawrence Creamland, from which five girls each were picked to show off their dexterity with the painter’s brush. The results are not far from amazing.

From Greenhill, Alison Nadunga’s creation titled “Standing firm”, is a striking painting of a lady carrying a bundle of firewood, a baby on her back, books, and a pencil in one hand.

“I wanted to intermarry culture, hard work and education because we can’t say girl education is about books only,” said the 18-year-old artist.

--Sunday Monitor, March 22, 2009