ARCHIVES: REMINISCENCES, UGANDA ARGUS – AUGUST 1967
Artist who symbolises Buganda
A young Ugandan artist exhibiting for the first time was congratulated on his vision and hard work by Dr.J.F.Bennett, of Makerere Medical School when he opened the exhibition in Nommo Gallery Kampala on Wednesday evening.
The Artist, 24 year-old Alirwana Mugalula-Mukiibi, a former student at the Makerere School of Fine Art, was, said Dr Bennett, a difficult man to identify; many people mistook him for a Nigerian when he was infact a Muganda.
What was clear was that he was an African culturist, whose art was based on an inner understanding of his culture. He was well aware of the background of symbolism, Buganda, particularly. The symbolism of marriage ceremony, dancing, singing, the drinking and the making of Kiganda beer.
Dr Bennett was described by Mugalula-Mukiibi as one of those who had offered him support and encouragement. Once the two of them went together to Dar es Salaam on a research trip and among the paintings exhibited at the Nommo Gallery are Mr. Mugalula-Mukiibi's impressions of Dar es Salaam.
Mr. Mugalula-Mukiibi who has been teaching Fine Art, English and Religious Knowledge at Moroto High School for the last three months has also displayed some of his impressions of Karamoja.
Commenting on the pictures about Karamoja, Dr Bennett said the way they were presented was typical of what a foreigner to that part of the country would see. Mr Mugalula-Mukiibi who thanked all those who had turned up to see and appreciate his work said many of his friends had asked him what he was doing. Today they have a chance to know exactly what I am engaged in, he added.
Mr Mugalula-Mukiibi says his work is basically about his society and says: "I see a beautiful woman in the street, I admire her and I instinctively paint her in one of my pictures." He expressed indebtedness to his early art teachers like Mr Hannington Matovu, Mr John Kisaka and Dr Bennett.
ALIRWANA – MUGALULA - MUKIIBIThe Artist writes: I was born at Kira in Kyaddondo, Buganda, in 1943. My father was at first a school teacher and later retired to farming. I went to Kira Primary School, then to King's College Budo, and in 1963 joined the School of Fine Art at Makerere University College of London.
During my early years I used to make small car models, cows, and figures, as well as pots. Later I made coloured drawings, and gummed them up on my father's sitting room walls… I was assigned the corridor as my permanent gallery.
At Makerere, I was interested in almost all the branches of art offered. In my final year, I majored in painting, towards which I was most inclined… My work is basically about my society… I see a beautiful woman in the street, I admire her, and I instinctively paint her in one of my pictures.
I seldom paint from life, but work mostly from memory, in order to execute more imagination and mood… In sculpture, I am generally inspired by animal and bird forms, likewise in graphics… You will find curvilinear designs in my pictures, giving an ideal sense of balance, devoid of symmetry… I look at colour as just a reinforcement to designing. Once a balanced design is achieved, even if colour is subtracted from the painting, that remaining will still satisfy me.
I have designed posters and book covers, and have illustrated books, in addition to my painting commissions… I am especially indebted to my early art teachers, Mr. Hannington Matovu and Mr. John Kisaka, and to Dr. John F. Bennett, who for many years have offered me support and encouragement… to the Art School of Makerere… to my parents and friends… and most of all to those who rightly believe in preserving our culture, traditions, and social institutions, and to our society elders.
Social Contribution A child steps forward confidently into society and behind him are the Child Care Agencies (Sanyu Babies' Home, Child Welfare and Adoption Society and Save the Children Fund) who have helped him to make this step. That is the meaning of the new symbol of the Child Care Agencies of Uganda shown in this photograph. Pictured with the symbol are Jon Anderson, Organising Secretary of the Child Care Agencies, and Alirwana Mugalula-Mukiibi, famous Ugandan artist who designed the symbol. The new symbol will appear on all future joint publicity and fund-raising for the Agencies and will also be the focal point on the certificates to be awarded to participants in the Child Care walk this year.
It is particularly appropriate that the design should be of Mugalula-Mukiibi since in all his work he draws on ordinary people and their environment for inspiration. Born in Kira village in Buganda of a farming family, Mugalula-Mukiibi shares much the same background as the children for whom the Child Care Agencies are responsible. The design in this symbol is a simple one and does not illustrate the kind of help given by the Agencies, but the strong outline of the importance of it. Mugalula-Mukiibi is well known throughout Uganda and Kenya where he has held several exhibitions. Some of his works are at present the show at the Nommo Gallery and he is now negotiating to exhibit in galleries in Norway and France.
Uganda Argus 1969
Introduction Article, East African Journal 1985When Jonathan asked me to write a short article to mark and celebrate the official career introduction in the service of the arts of our mutual friend Mugalula Mukiibi, I was pleased and proud. There is no man about whom I could more sincerely write a note in the pages of a daily, or with greater pleasure. It must have been sometime during 1964 when I first had the pleasure of meeting him at an Esso Art Competition Exhibition in Kampala when he was officially receiving a prize from King Freddie, The President of Uganda and I can say, with appreciation and admiration, that we have been friends ever since. Incidentally, I wish to, not with a secret sense of aversion, mention that he always fondly refers to the photograph taken on that occasion and published in the Argus daily as "King Freddie and the Artist, The King and I." "The first ever royal handshake and inviting smile, both traditionally held sacred, endearingly bestowed valour and permanent confidence in my aspirations and developmental quests, signaling many more such royal and dignitary embraces thereafter in my life."
A recipient of many international Academic and professional awards, he, with his family, live a modest life at their home at Kanyanya Village, Mile 5 Gayaza Road, Kampala, where he has, with time, established a studio, a smallscale (cottage) industry for diversified innovative production, and a Gallery. And the entire establishment is internationally known as AFRODESIGNS AND THE ARTS (MUKIIBI DECOS).
This is an establishment in which the present and posterity have the undeniable right to expect that the products therefrom – human and material – are and will be of great meaningful values and benefit for Uganda, and indeed the entire humankind.
One of the most attractive things about Mugalula Mukiibi is that he can, and does, talk about something other than Art. And this makes him a delightful companion because he is a highly cultivated man, an aesthete with wide ranging tastes and interests. It is to his honour that he gives full rein to the humane side of life. He is a humanist, has deep interests in the welfare of his less fortunate fellow men.
He is a connoisseur of good food, company, extensive reading, furniture and architecture, dogs, tropical plants and fauna, Art-collecting and above all antiques, especially old automobiles.
It is a memorable experience to be driven through the streets of Kampala in 1975 by Mugalula in a shaky 1951 Model Morris "side valve" while he, with no ill-feelings at all, with a genuine smile, bragged "Boy I am driving the oldest machine in Uganda!" " By the way", he flamboyantly added, "I happen to know 99% of those Traffic police." "How comes?" I asked him. "60% I must have taught sometime somewhere, 39% were my schoolmates, and the rest, I think, "know me." He concluded with a wink. He calls his 'antique' car 'The old faithful' or, 'Rolls-Royce the Kid.'
His devoted contribution to the Arts is exemplary and absolutely outstanding.
What a pleasure to write a note about this modest, talented man, who says "I must share my talents with others!"
Sunday Nation – East Africa 1969 Nairobi, Kenya
PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST WHO STARTED WITH RAW BANANAMugalula the Artist, is modest, yet confident, unassumingly dedicated to his talent, fantastically industrious, yet allowing himself to appear casual about it all.
He is a devoted artist who has never left his roots behind, who never will abandon his own people no matter how far his talents and education may carry him. And this may be very far indeed. Many of his figures now resemble sculpture, yet they seem to be representation of deep feeling rather than of outward form.
Part of a letter he wrote to an artist friend in 1968 expressed this better than an outsider can do. "Boy, after the series of paintings about the Susana (nightclub), the "3 a.m.", and "4 a.m." for example, I have done one of my monumental or sculptural paintings. I have with genuine involvement, tried to render the mood of the poverty-stricken with the minimum of detail. The curvilinear or winding forms devoid of symmetry, occur painfully, but with rhythm, eventually marrying the vertical ones (forms), to indeed render a monumental work, revealing despair. I call it "The Peasant Family". "How I look forward to the time when my fingers will be bending, cutting and welding metal – to render the plastic version. As you have always said, I am likely to end up a sculptor. Keep smiling!" Mugalula may well emerge as a sculptor too, but he cannot ever give up painting, unless he loses his present delight in colour.
Mukiibi has always been true to his roots. The people, animals and homesteads and traditions of his childhood, are the obvious materials for his pictures. New influences – his visit to the Coast and his period of teaching in Karamoja for instance - are now integrated more familiarly into his paintings. Through their images he reaches towards his next goal, metal sculpture, which he will be able to start with the completion of his own studio currently being built on Gayaza Road, Kampala. Animal life has virtually disappeared and been replaced by dark geometric forms, the forerunners of the graceful three-dimensional figures which Mukiibi envisages in Bronze or Copper.
Amongst Mukiibi's disembodied bodies are the musicians he has studied so well now even more as a part of their instruments, bones, inseparably curving into the graceful wood of the harps and drums, elongated skeletal fingers deceptively resembling the slender branches of the instrument's origin. One aspect of nature is often emphatically reminiscent of another – the beggar becomes a locust, the owl has the air of a man with a hangover.
In every thing Mukiibi is dedicated to the shape, the reality of the form, and in this he has taken us right into the space age with traditional subjects hovering on the edge of science fiction; the Kanzu as modern and vital as a space suit, the warrior as relevant with his spear as the moon explorer. In fact, the Artist is "with it", in the fullest sense.
1968 August, 2nd One-man Exhibition, Paa-ya-Paa Gallery Nairobi, KENYA – BrochureMugalula Mukiibi is a young Uganda painter, making his first appearance in Nairobi. He is a quiet confident young man, who, when I first met him, unloading his paintings outside the Paa-ya-Paa Gallery, showed none of the defensiveness, almost embarrassment that many painters reveal when surrounded by their work when it is not shown at its best. But the paintings, strewn all over the pavement made an immediate impact of a strong surely based talent; they all made a coherent sense, like meeting someone for the first time and seeing them and liking them, completely, with nothing held back.
Mugalula is self evidently a committed painter, seriously examining areas of experience, and problems of form. The surfaces of the paintings are tight and well built, and the colour also responds to the same discipline, pushing and nudging the emotion, coherently. The drawing is searching and exploratory. It pushes forward but manages to make a resolved statement. Like the surfaces, the canvases themselves are built upon the preceding one. A phrase, a passage once resolved, is then opened-ended in the start of another canvas. Mugalula's work is yet another indication of a new thrusting generation of East African painters. It must surely indicate that the days of the Zebra painters are numbered.
1969 3rd One-man Show Nommo Gallery 1969 – BrochureThis present exhibition of the work of Mugalula Mukiibi sees the development of several dominant themes, which are central at this stage in the Artist's career, namely the scenes of daily life in the surbubs of Kampala, the herds of cattle, so beloved by the African, the arid beauty of the Karamoja landscape and its people. All of these subjects recur again and again in various forms, but above them is the growing interest of Mugalula in music and musicians.
In recent months, I have watched, with interest, the development of this motif, from the realism of the earlier works to the more refined abstracts, where the musician and his instrument blend into one harmonious being. Perhaps this is what the Artist is telling us about life and how it should be lived; he alone can tell us, if he will. However, this is to delve into a man and his privacy, and it is much better to come and see these works for yourself, with an open mind, so that one can see East Africa and the life of its people through the eyes of one of its most talented young Artists.
1970 5th One-man Show Uganda Museum 1970 - BrochureIn this, his 5th One-man show, he demonstrates admirably the justification of his decision to devote himself to working full-time as a creative artist. He has now gained the freedom necessary for the maturing of several facets of his inspiration, which has been indicated in previous exhibitions – many characteristics, which will be familiar to followers of his work, are now explored thoroughly to a most satisfying end.
THE CARY NEWS Saturday, August 16, 1997
North Carolina, USA.
Ugandan artist blends realistic, abstract in work at Arts center.
By Dana Wind
"You see, in my art career… the communities have encouraged me and supported me in the development of my talent, so I feel I should pay Homage to the entire community," he said. "It's a humble way of paying tribute. Without the support of the community, there would be no art. In a nutshell, it's a humble homage to mankind and I'm very happy to pay it in Cary. The exhibition in Cary marks the 26th solo show in a career that spans over three and a half decades. Previous exhibit sites are East Africa, Scandinavia, Europe, Australia and other parts of the United States, yet Mugalula-Mukiibi still speaks in reverential tones about the "wonderful and prosperous city" of Cary.
The abundance of nature is what catches his eye in Cary, he explained. He marveled at the lack of skyscrapers and landscaping of the Page-Walker, the trees and foliage around town and the abundance of parks. "I think the surroundings here make people so much more art-loving," he said.
Years from now, he said, he plans to return to Cary and just paint, paint, paint. His paintings are what he calls "keyhole" impressions of society. Scenes of elders, giraffes, village women and pastoralists mark his paintings as his impressions of Uganda. If he were to paint his "keyhole" impression of Cary, he said it would be the nature. Some of his paintings are realistic, like "Peasant Family," which is the painting of a mother, father and child looking to the side, while others are more abstract. "Solo Harpist" is a painting of a human and a harp merged into one. He uses the peasant family to explain the message of his paintings.
"The message is peasant," he said. "They are peasants, they are not affluent, but they are solid and have family. The feeling they have is not derived from being peasants." The inspirations for his art come from different sources: human activities, nature, tradition, folklore, dance and music, and also from his reminiscences. "People ask me how long it takes to paint a picture – I tell them it takes me 54 years, 54 years of experience," he said.
His experience with art started early, and people were collecting his work while he was still a high school student at King's College Budo in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. After graduation, he studied Art and Education at Makerere University of East Africa, also in Kampala. After teaching art in several secondary schools, he founded his own workshop, studio and gallery in Kampala-Afrodesigns and the Arts - which he operates with his wife, Margaret. It was there that he developed another media of design that he is launching internationally for the first time at the Cary exhibit. Barkcloth, much like the name implies, is the bark of a tree in the fig family that can be stripped from the tree and beaten into cloth. Traditional uses in Uganda are clothes and barter, and the cloth is still used in ceremonies, but Mugalula-Mukiibi was the first to turn it into an art form 12 years ago. So far, the barkcloths have sold well at the Page-Walker, he said many people have come by the gallery and shown an interest in his art, and some have just stopped to chat. The opening reception went especially well, he said. While Cary seems sold on Mugalula-Mukiibi, he seems just as sold on the town.
The New Vision, Friday, May 28, 1999
Vision Weekend / Art
Mugalula was in 1980 commissioned by the Government to execute a painting for Pope John Paul II His joy hangs on the brush's tip
On Bombo Road, at Wandegeya is Bulasio Bwenza House, a four storeyed building. The first floor is the site for his art pieces speaking of the traditional folklore, communal gatherings and social activities, family groups, symbols, tributes, dedications, fashions, portraiture and music and dance.
This is Mugalula's Gallery – 'Gallery Afrodesigns And The Arts Archives'. He calls it "My Humble Homage to Humankind". Continue walking around the gallery and you are mesmerised as you view the Artist's impressions of the inhabitants of the Great Lakes Region. A touch of wildlife, the long horned Ankole cows and their herdsmen, the semi-arid enchanting landscapes, sculptures, the elegant nomad Karamojong pastoralists. This is the climax of Mugalula's research and practice for four decades. At 56, soft-spoken Mugalula, the internationally acknowledged artist, is modest, yet confident. He is dedicated, industrious and patriotic. He has never deserted Uganda even at the time when people of his kind left the country.
He is a humanist, has deep interest in the welfare of his less fortunate fellow men. Augustine Mugalula-Mukiibi was born on February 4, 1943 at Kira – Kito village near Kampala, to Enock Mukiibi a school teacher turned farmer, and Erina Nakkazi Namagudu. His loving parents, who from youth instilled in him the value of hard work and the cherishing of his Kabaka, on spotting his numerous sketches pasted on the living room walls, as a sign of encouragement to his passion, assigned the House corridor to him as his first Gallery. "This was my first gallery which I cherished and is still standing as a monument in my birth place."
The seventh son out of a family of ten children, he was educated at Kira Primary School, Kings College Buddo, eventually doing a diploma in Art and one in Education at Makerere University. His Art career started at the age of 14 when he was a high school student. On graduation in 1968, Mugalula taught Art in several high schools in the country, before establishing his own workshop, studio and gallery – Afrodesigns and The Arts in 1971. It is from this gallery that he has been able to stage exhibitions all over the world. The latest was his presentation in the Ugandan Pavilion at Expo ' 98 Lisbon – Portugal.
Mugalula has executed many major official and private commissions and is a recipient of numerous international academic and professional awards.
"A great number of my works are housed in international private and public institutions. I was officially commissioned in 1980 to execute an original oil painting which was presented to the newly independent republic of Zimbabwe from the people and Government of Uganda to mark the occasion of their independence. "It was on that occasion presented to the Prime Minister Mr Robert Mugabe in Salisbury by the Ugandan delegation led by Mr. Y.K.Museveni. Its title was "Viva Zimbabwe" (Monument of Triumph and Protection) and it hangs in the Zimbabwe Parliament Building.
He was also in 1980 commissioned by the Uganda Government to execute an original oil painting that had a spiritual message and was officially presented by the Uganda President to His Holiness Pope John Paul II to mark the official opening of the 22 Uganda Catholic Martyrs' Chapel in the Vatican. It is titled "GOD IS WITH US", now hanging in the Vatican. He has designed works for the State House-Entebbe, Nile Hotel and in Lake Victoria Hotel Entebbe – all comprising original works of art and designs. Probably Mugalula would never have had the first ever royal handshake and inviting smile from King Freddie Edward Mutesa, late President of Uganda, if it was not for his Art.
This was in 1964 at an Esso Art Competition Exhibition when he was officially receiving a competition prize from the Kabaka. Mugalula always fondly refers to the photograph taken on that occasion and published in the Argus daily as "King Freddie and the Artist, The King and I". "The royal handshake and smile, both bestowed valour and permanent confidence in my aspirations and developmental quests, signaling many more such royal and dignitary embraces thereafter in my life," he says proudly.
It was Mugalula who first turned a Barkcloth – Olubugo – into a medium of Art and he has developed it extensively.
Mugalula's wife, Margaret Bummenya Naalongo, has been instrumental in molding him into what he is now.
"To me, art has developed, in the course of time, from a pass-time into passion and consequently into a profession. My entire joy hangs on the brush's tip," he firmly says. He has created and executed befitting presents to the Kabaka and his fiancée Queen Silivia, although he would not say which they are because they are royal secrets.
"But when you see the best ones those are the ones because one gives one's beloved Kabaka the best – and that is a tradition. Wangaala Ssabasajja," he said affectionately. What does he have to say about Ugandans' appreciation for art? "People have come to love art."
The World Expo 2000 Theme:
In conformity with, indeed in consideration of supra, I take pleasure in observing that I have for several decades been relevantly, modestly addressing the same philosophy, thereafter I feel it is befitting and timely for me to present to the world via Expo 2000 Mugalula's Account of THE ANCIENT CRAFT OF BARKCLOTH IN UGANDA.
The presentation is abundantly laced with visual aesthetics, Mugalula's Artworks, symbolising warm salutations to humankind from Uganda the source of the mighty Nile, elegantly lying astride the Equator.
Utilising the instantly naturally regrowing skin of Nature's Barkcloth Trees, Emituba in Luganda and Ficus Nantalesis in Latin, through modest Traditional science and technology, aspects I have the honour to hereby demonstrate, indeed simulate, Uganda artisans produce/manufacture the unique barkcloth material for humankind's use as, interalia, clothing, bedding, trading and admirably NOW climaxing in my unique innovative hand-made products of art, infinetely embracing the material – visual works of art for humankind's cosumption worldwide.
EXPO 2000 HANNOVER
Rindenstoff wurde traditionell fur die verschiedensten Kleidungsstucke, sowie Bettzeug, Wandbehange und auch Sacke verwendet. Weitere Verwendung fand der Stoff als Zahlungsmittel fur Land, im Handel und als Brautpreis. Auch heutzutage wird der Stoff noch ab und zu zu bestimmten Anlassen gebraucht. Die feinsten Stoffe ihrer Art kamen aus Sango im Buddu-County. Seit 1975 begann der Kunstler Mugalula-Mukiibi aus Uganda dieses einzigartige Material zu Kunst zu verarbeiten. Nachdem er intensive Forschungen uber die Geshichte und die traditionellen Verarbeitungsformen der Ganda, welche ein Volk in Uganda sind, betrieben hatte und diese nicht nur im Unterricht, sondern auch in einer eigenverantwortlichen Disertation veroffentlicht hatte, entschied er sich fur die innovative Verwendung des Materials in seiner Kunst. Diese hat auf grund ihrer nur fur ihn typischen, asthetischen Motive Weltweit aubergewohnliche Anerkennung unter Kunstliebhabern und Sammlern erlangt.
MUGALULA MEINE KUNSTREISE ZUR SERIGRAPHY
Nach einer uber vier Jahrzehnte dauernden Karriere als Kunstler, ist die Kunst von Mugalulas in der klassischen Serigraphy zu ihrem Hohepunkt gelangt, der vom Kunstler sogenannten 'AESTHETICS MUGALULA' Wir freuen uns dies einem internationalen Publikum auf der EXPO 2000 in HANNOVER zeigen zu konnen.
MUGALULA MY ART JOURNEY TO SERIGRAPHY
Eventually, with a seasoned professional and career Art track record of some four decades, the creative originals of Mugalula have, with time, spontaneously climaxed into classic serigraphs 'AESTHETICS MUGALULA' We take pleasure in presenting them to the World Audience at the HANNOVER EXPO 2000
Augustine Mugalula-Mukiibi"People ask me how long it takes to paint a picture -- I tell them it takes 54 years, 54 years of experience."
Augustine Mugalula-Mukiibi is a lifelong resident of Kampala, Uganda. Since 1971 he has operated a studio-gallery, Afrodesigns and The Arts, to which many an international collector travels to acquire his highly prized art.
Behind the unusually broad and adventuresome range of Mugalula-Mukiibi's styles and mediums is a country described as a vortex of both geologic turbulence and social complexity. Uganda exhibits all the dramatic effects of the powerful forces that produced the great Rift Valley. At the same time, it is at the crossroads of two of Africa's largest linguistic groups. These are the factors that have created conflict and upheaval -- but these are the factors that have also created great and diverse richness.
This diversity and richness have found their way into the philosophy of this artist who finds beauty everywhere, who pays homage to all humankind as his teachers and benefactors, and who believes that "What stimulates Ugandans should be shared by the world community and vice-versa." And what has found its way into his philosophy has also found expression in his art, a unique mixture of realistic and abstract. Equally unique is the art medium which he originated: barkcloth prints. While he introduced this art form in Africa 12 years ago, it was introduced internationally only last fall when his exhibit and personal appearance were a major civic event in Cary, North Carolina, USA.
Mugalula-Mukiibi has executed a number of official commissions, and has won international art awards, among them the British Broadcasting Corporation/Standard Bank International.