Waigo: Women’s contribution to arts has predominately been as the subject during creation

Mon pi Mon was very excited to hear about the female visual arts exhibition Aphra Arts Organisation was putting together as part of Uganda’s 54th Independence anniversary. The pop-up exhibition will feature the Future Female Visual Artists (Kampala) collective of female visual artists age 19-24 years old, who are based in Uganda. In celebration of Ugandan Independence Asiimwe Caroline, Guma Ruth, Nalungo Sharifah, Namutosi Martha and Piloya Irene will be showing new works and others in progress at 32º East, Ugandan Arts Trust in Kansanga on Oct 7th.

We sought out Artistic Director and Founder, Yvonne Waigo, and asked her some questions:

Mon pi Mon: What can we expect from the exhibition?
Yvonne Waigo: The exhibition will be a visual expression of the artists admiration for some of the women who have helped Uganda into development.

MpM: In your expert opinion, what is the women’s contribution been to the arts field in Uganda?
YW: In Uganda, women’s contribution to arts has predominately been as the subject during creation, which is done by the male. These visual creations have mostly been how men view women, their position in society and the male’s fantasies of women.

I wanted to achieve three things with this exhibition:
1: Acknowledge and celebrate women’s role in the development of Uganda
2: Give female artists a platform to work
3: Encourage female to gain knowledge on other women’s contribution to society and their field, and thus build identification with them and each other.

MpM: Recently at an event, someone showed they called the iconic images of/from Uganda over the last 30 years. None of them were featured women, or children. Is this kind of invisibility a problem in visual arts? How do we deal with it?
YW: Yes, this problem is very prevalent in the arts. I think the main reason for this issue in the arts within East Africa is down to a lack of commitment from established organisations to contribute to change. There is some acknowledgment of the issue but no action.
Organisations want to contribute and even drive the conversation about the lack of visibility and opportunities for women in the arts, but they don’t want to make a stand and contribute to changing the level of female participation by committing to creating opportunities for them.


MpM: How did you find all of these women that you are showcasing for the exhibition? Was it easy? And, what were the criteria for inclusion in the exhibition?
YW: The women participating in the exhibition are part of the Future Female Visual Artists Collective. I have been working with Uganda Christian University for about two months now, to identify 3rd year graduates who want opportunities. I have been engaging with them through their final assessment period and we have developed a relationship. It has not been an easy process but Eria Sane has been instrumental in encouraging the female artists to connect with me. And I am now creating opportunities for them to participate in.

MpM: Do we know what the gender gap is for women in visual arts? What percentage holds solo exhibitions? What percentage are curators?
What kind of issues/stories have you heard from practicing artists that are gender-centric?
YW: Statistic-wise there is very little information collated. Which is one of the challenges Aphra Arts Org is facing but we are committed (as we grow) to gain more statistical data in order to feed factual information to the industry. I’m sure there are many female visual artists practicing but in terms of developmental opportunities, the ones I can name who are receiving them are Stacey Gillian (artist), Sheila Nakitende (artist), Esther Ruth Mbabazi (photographer), Charity Atukunda (artist), Immaculate Mali (artist), Violet Nantume (artist and curator), Robinah Nsubuga (curator) and myself Yvonne Waigo (Artistic Director/Producer). These ladies have worked hard but no new female artists are receiving opportunities to join them in presenting their talents.

I feel like the arts scene is comfortable with having a limited number of women because they would be challenged if participation was 50/50.


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