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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ssajjabbi’s Art inspires poetry


Solo exhibitions at the national gallery are as rare as self-taught artists based upcountry coming to exhibit there. But on Friday April 3, Ssajjabbi Edward Kamugisha changed that with a grand opening at Nommo Gallery of an art exhibition that will close on April 30, 2009.

Some of Uganda’s finest fine artists, students of art, and art enthusiasts were there to witness the collection of artworks from the Kabale-born and based artist, under the theme, The Moments I Love. Ssajjabbi’s art is gentle, luminous and quite charming. He captures life in motion: women going to the garden, children playing, animals in the wild, plants, and the serenity of nature. Outstanding among the 50 artworks on display is Survival of the Fittest, depicting an old man sculpting a wooden cup. It’s a captivating artwork infused with a hidden message: a real man must earn his living.

Woman of Kigezi is a painting of a woman, child on the back, basket on her head, and hoe on her shoulder. The other women and children in the background give it vividness that reminds one of the hardworking village women we often met on their way to the garden on our way to school.

At the Quarter Guard shows four beautiful crested cranes in a graceful match while Big Bums is a painting of zebras. One cannot forget the facial expression in the painting of a man playing his lute; it’s an expression that fills your heart with a longing for good music, the kind your great grandfather must have played by the fireside many years ago.

All these works were inspired by real life experiences, and the 45-year-old artist admits he’s an unrelenting naturalist and realist that goes to the field everyday to study people, plants, animals, stones, birds, and generally nature.

I’ve interviewed many artists who seem to worship the distinct touch of Maria Naita and Taga Nuwagaba. I’ve seen their works; quite distinct, but none have had a profound effect on me like the works of this relatively unknown artist.

Ssajjabi, who has participated in several local and international exhibitions, and is among the few Ugandans to have held a solo exhibition at October Gallery, the prestigious London gallery, has inspired many Ugandan artists including Roland Tiburusya. “His art sparked off the zeal I have about painting,” says Tiburusya.

“He’s the finest painter; so philosophical with feelings, has a spirit of nationalism, and a deep sense of admiration of beauty, glamour and style in his paintings and drawings.”

He uses oil on canvas, water colour, and then oil pastels on canvas, but it’s a combination of realism in his compositions, dynamism with motion, the expression of emotions and the mastery of his colour schemes that make his creations different.

And art lover Loyce Kwikiriza was influenced by Ssajjabi’s works to write poetry. In one, she writes, “Your talent is unlimited as you touch every heart with emotions untold…you open the world to us with scenes of life’s realities…the animals, the mountains, the hotsprings, the toils of men, the burdens reaches its core ....”

--Sunday Monitor, April 19, 2009