Dr Rose Kirumira
Educator, Artist and Sculptor
My work interrogates the groundedness of cultural spaces specifically material objects, personalities and narratives with problematic meanings due to displacement from their historical craftsmanship and performative context. I explore connections and relationships between objects, object making and issues of identity placement and, own lived experiences. The artwork then takes on an altered responsibility, it becomes a tool for visual affirmation, proclamation and emancipation.
The process, treatment of surfaces and mark-making is integral to my work. I reconstruct form as concept, mixing old and new, a palette of wood and metal, clay and paint. The element of repetition and re-imagining of cultural objects and contexts on a monumental scale dominates my sculpture projects. I have found that the idea of using various techniques of assembling, hammering, fastening and stitching, chisel marks, singeing, or metal inlays always comes together as moments of achievement. This is not always simple, especially when I leave my own familiar space at home in Uganda and work in a different or ‘foreign’ environment. Then I seek to find similarities of objects, of spaces and of personalities but also disparities in how to approach the process. I aspire to create a fusion of experiences that speaks to identity through cultural objects. My concept of form changes, I express in the natural and industrial; paper and cloth, wire and thread. A new forum for conversation emerges, or a different choral ensemble, with people and objects transported into my own personal space of creative expression. The Baganda of Central Uganda have constantly provided the stage for my artistic conversations.
The body of work I am currently investigating is inspired by ‘The Cooking Pot’ traditionally known as ‘entamu’ (a Ganda clay cooking pot) or known as ‘sefuliya’. Borrowed from a Swahili word “sufuria” commonly referring to a flat based, deep sided lipped and handle-less cooking pot or container. It is widely used by the Bantu of Eastern and Southern Africa. Building off my previous body of work Let’s Talk about Omweso, a mancala board game, the current project embraces the socio-cultural and technological transformations in form and function of cooking pots. As typical household items they present a tremendous personal opportunity for reflection about the narratives surrounding domesticity and the negotiation of gendered personal spaces therein. Why women, in order to cook meals, were not allowed to play omweso. Metal cooking pots, probably introduced by Arab traders in Eastern Africa in the 16th century, gradually replacing the traditional entamu clay pot, bring with them a shift in the Baganda social cultural dynamic and cooking habits of communities where they were introduced. The socially and symbolically re-constructed functions of a cooking pot cannot be ignored.
Thus, in my recent Exhibition at Stellenbosch University Gallery, I explored a collection of patched-up and de-commissioned sefuliya I travelled with from Uganda. The intimate life-relationship between the sefuliya and its owner(s) Abakyala (women) and provided a space for reflection about stories of “own-histories” against “pot-life experiences”. Individual narratives derived either from cooking traditions or social demands have made a visual argument for new pot ‘objects’, in this case beyond the sefuliya, as a resource for reflection and commentaries about the current-day personal space. The pot becomes a vessel of responsibility and the next forum for conversation.