Nnyanzi Art

Nnyanzi Art


By Nuwa Wamala Nnyanzi
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First published: August 14, 2005

Two artists who share the same heritage chose to share their artistic creations with the community and visitors of Whitstable from May 11th to 24th, 2005 at the Horsebridge Arts and Community Centre.

The exhibit, which attracted more than 800 visitors, showcased Nansubuga Kolawole's poems, which successfully illustrate Nuwa Wamala Nnyanzi's most recent works of art.

Nansubuga, is married with two children, has a bachelor's degree in Law from the University of Bristol, UK and a Masters in Science in Development Studies. Nansubuga is a new entrant in the field of art. Nnyanzi is a veteran of twenty-six years. Nnyanzi a self-taught visual arts practitioner recently graduated with a first class MA Design (Professional Practice) degree from Middlesex University, UK.

Nansubuga grew up appreciating art and later on became a collector. Nnyanzi's art so inspired her that not only does she collect it but promotes it too and is responsible for organizing the exhibitions. Nansubuga said that as a compliment to her cousin's illustrious career spanning a quarter of a century, she decided to put her feelings and interpretation in poem form.

One of her poems; 'I Will Be Here For You' appropriately hang next to Nnyanzi's 'You Are My World', a batik painting portraying a mother holding her child in a loving and tender manner. Nnyanzi's use of mono colour and simple lines to capture motion and emotion is clearly manifest in this piece. So is Nansubuga's choice and arrangement of words.

I will be here.
To love you.
To nourish you.
To comfort you.
To see you grow.
I will be here.
In the good times.
And bad times.
I will be here.

Another example of the successful collaboration between the two cousins is demonstrated in Nnyanzi's 'Gender Issues', in which a woman clad in busuuti (one of Ugandan women's traditional dress) is portrayed writing on a banner words, which read; 'Empower Women.' The same banner on the left hand side; is supported by a woman clad in munagiro (yet another Ugandan women's traditional attire). While on the right side is a man pounding food, a role that is traditionally dominated by women. The man's mortar is raised and at the top it serves as a flag post for the banner.

What, I know for sure.
Is that I have a right to love.
I have a right to choose.
I have a right to happiness.
I have a right to free expression.
I have a right to feel secure.
I have a right to nourishment.
I have a right to change my mind.
I have a right to be me.
That, I know for sure.

Nnyanzi's legendary commitment to his faith also manifests itself in some pieces such as; 'The Pentecost', 'Taking Care of Humanity', 'The Trinity', while his pan-Africanism is vivid in: 'African Defence Symbols' and 'African Connection.'

Although a pan-Africanist, Nnyanzi without apologies is proud of his roots in the centuries old kingdoms of Bunyoro Kitara and Buganda located in the great lakes region. It comes out clearly in the newly created pieces such as; 'Mujaguzo', 'Emotionally Engaged', 'Rhythm and Emotion', and 'The Joy of Life.' The two also addressed other areas in the show, which included responsible parenthood, love, royalty, effects of war, and challenges the youth face.

The art exhibit attracted a cross section of people. Basing on the comments recorded in the guest book and exchanges between guests and artists; viewers seem to have been emotionally touched. Among the visitors were children, youth, middle aged, and senior citizens. The majority of them especially those who were seeing that type of art for the first time were impressed by the application of colour, mastery of depicting motion and emotion, the choice and arrangements of words and titles.

The first weekend attracted over four hundred visitors from different parts of the world because Whitstable is a very popular tourist destination. The majority of them had no idea where Uganda is located on the map. With the help of a map and a lot of story telling they were more informed by the time they left.

A six year old girl on seeing the piece titled 'The Pentecost', which portrays the Apostles raising their arms to receive the Holy Spirit, while emulating the gesture she broke into a song; YMCA. It is clear that the gesture reminded her of The Village People's song YMCA and the video clip, which shows people singing and raising their arms to form letters that make up YMCA. That was her personal interpretation.

Artists who were exhibiting in the neighboring gallery also expressed their fascination with the art they were seeing for the first time. One of them, a retired swimming pool designer described the art as; 'Very African on the outlook yet with many key elements of European art'. He added; 'It is very tranquilizing'.

An eighty year old woman who was the first to acquire a piece from the collection turned her bag inside out in search of money but could only come up with less than what was necessary. But she was not to be outdone. She rushed home to collect the balance. Luckily for her, on her way home she met with her husband who gave her the entire amount. As she was trying to explain to him why she desperately needed to get the art, he just waived her off saying: 'seeing how excited you are about it. I will like it too. So go ahead and get it darling'.

Art students from the University of Canterbury also found the art show very useful in terms of exposure to new forms of art. They also saw it as a valuable resource material for their projects. A teacher of a school for disabled children booked a day to bring his students to the exhibit because he felt that they were likely to benefit from it in terms of visual entertainment and emotional therapy.

A husband to one of the artists exhibiting in the neighboring gallery described Nnyanzi's art as graphic, colourful and very moving. He said that if he were to buy he would go for 'At Peace With Each Other' because of the shapes and forms, which when put together bring out how the woman and man in the piece feel about each other. The woman's hand tenderly and possessively holds the man's head close to her bosom. The man obligingly, with eyes closed rests peacefully and seems to be enjoying every moment of it. And the woman with her eyes closed and a faint yet revealing smile on her lips says it all.

Artist Olive Powel's husband, a retired designer of swimming pools, on walking into the exhibition hall said he felt like collapsing in a rocking chair in front of the art pieces and taking in everything. He described the works of art as soothing and musical. He suggested to his wife that next time she felt like giving him a present she would be well appreciated if she bought him; 'At Peace With Each Other.'

John Winston Jenkins, a trained draughtsman and visualiser who had worked for a big landscaping firm and later established his own consultancy in the swimming pool industry found Nnyanzi's art refreshing.

Michael Stringer aged 71, retired designer and painter, and a remarkable storyteller described Nnyanzi's art as very African and detected some resemblance with the French artist whom he believes influenced Pablo Picasso. Unfortunately he could not recall his name. But he promised to go and find out from the library where he had seen it. With his walking stick he slowly made his way to the library and was back later with the name and an interesting story to tell. The name of the artist happened to be Ferdinand Leger. He talked about a book on the lives of Picasso, Braque and another famous French artist whose art Picasso did not want to compare with his. But on the author's insistence, at the breakfast table Picasso leaned forward, both hands on his cheeks and blurted out 'That bastard can paint.'

The most popular pieces in the exhibit were: 'At Peace With Oneself' and 'Outdoing Each Other.'

The work reminded Peter Hackford of Egypt where he had come across the quote' I hold you in my heart like a reed in the arms of the wind' To him the curves and embrace were a show of love.

All in all the exhibit was successful in terms of exposure and there is need for a more exhibits in future to make the people more familiar with our art. As a result more people may develop a taste for our art to the level of acquiring it. With the policy of fair trade being promoted by European countries it is likely that the visual arts industry will benefit greatly from the move. Besides it is high time Uganda contributed to global culture instead of just being consumers.

All the new pieces on show plus others, which are yet to be revealed to the public will soon be posted on; www.nnyanziart.com

By Nuwa Wamala Nnyanzi
more from author >>
First published: August 14, 2005
Nuwa Wamala Nnyanzi, a self-taught visual arts practicioner/consultant, started his artistic career in 1978 in Nairobi, Kenya before moving back to his homeland Uganda. He has an MA Design (proffesional practice) from Middlesex University, UK.

His works are world famous and have been aptly described as
"The Art that touches the heart."

Nnyanzi is a Rotarian, a life member of the Uganda Red Cross Society and former director of Uganda Tourist Board. He served as State Minister in the Buganda Kingdom from 1992 to 2002. He is currently the Vice Chairman of the National Arts and Crafts Association of Uganda.

For more go to: www.nnyanziart.com