Friday, March 30, 2012


THE Afriart Gallery in Kamwokya, Kampala has just hosted a great line up of some of the best contemporary women artists working in Uganda in celebration of the Women Month of March.

The exhibition that ran from March 2 – 20, 2012, showcased the great advancements in art by top female artists displaying paintings, collages and photography. The display also included unique handmade earrings by Ugandan jewelers and other handcrafts.

The list of the exhibition titled, “Women artists in Uganda” includes: Stella Atal, Rosario Achola, Hellen Nabukenya, Maria Naita, Amanda Tumusiime, Sheila Nakitende, Meltem Yasar and Roshan Karmali.

Achola’s oil and mixed media display includes “The Lost Art of Romance,” “Bujagali” and “Fool’s Gold.” A picture of her painting “Bujagali” by Morgan Mbabazi appears above.

“Bujagali” explains the male element of economic development versus the female element of nature. With the building of the dam, a sacred place is going to be lost in the process. In the middle of the painting is the sacred area that is holding a secret of something more precious than gold.

“Fool’s Gold” is about the expectations of marriage. On the right is a man expressing his love and sexuality, he is the shining light, for his expectations are insemination reproduced by the fish and frogspawn below him. On the left is the bride and her expectations are fertility and a secure home. But these expectations break her neck.

Karmali, a photographer, designer and poet displayed her photographic collection tilted “Contemporary Tribe Series,” that included “Rachael,” “Jessica” and “Simone,” and?? Her series ask who is a tribe. What makes up a tribe? What is tribe?

“As long as we can remember tribes are made up of people who share the same traditions, cultures and a sense of unity, and look out and take care of each other. In the contemporary context as our cultures and ethnicities become diluted how does our generation connect to our indigenous heritage. So, we make a new (contemporary) tribe that takes strides or elements from our tradition and hold on to them in our contemporary lives,” Karmali observes.

“These series are about finding those people who function in life and keep alive their ancestry and cultural rituals despite being in the place that is changing. We tend to dilute our cultures with consumerism and the need to fit in and be the same. If we don’t celebrate our ancestry and tradition we are going to be creating generations of children who don’t connect, celebrate, indulge in the beauty and richness of our cultures. And this is not only happening in Africa but the other cultures in the world as well,” Karmali argues.

There was no better photo that summarized Karmali’s series than “Simone” - a portrait of a young woman of Burmese and American mixed race who has smeared herself with sandalwood paste as protection from the sun – a practice still in use in Burma. She lives in Washington DC, USA and this is a way of staying connected to her Burmese heritage.

Atal, a specialist in acrylics on barkcloth is also a fashion designer of wearable art. On display were her works like “My Sunshine,” “Beauty Contest” and “Rhythms of the Day” – carrying three fresh faces with beads, inspired to do something for the day.

Nakitende’s paintings included “Me Time,” “Strength of a Woman,” “First Love” and “My little friend.” While Tumusiime’s works are “Long Stride,” “Adolescent” and “Empowered.”

Nabukenya had “Blue land,” “Abstract,” “New Life,” “Love in Paradise” and “Advance.”

Naita’s works were “My Bouquet,” “Follow Your Dreams” and “My Best Friend,” among others.

Meltem’s marvelous photography made up of coloured and black and white portraits. Yasar, who seems to have fallen in love with nomadic peoples of western and eastern Africa has pictures of these people dressed in their traditional head gears, beads, burgles and hair styles. Most were captured in their homesteads in happy moods smiling with white beautiful teeth.

Meltem‘s collection include “Big smile from Omo Valley,” “Bottle cap girl,” “Lost in his eyes,” “Himba girl,” “Black-est eyes, beautiful smile,” “Scar tattooed Karamajong girl,” “Big Karamojong smile” and “Beauty in the crowd,” among others.

Achola, a surrealist painter and photographer described the exhibition as a way of expressing the different layers of what makes a woman, adding: “And it is also a way to examine the power dynamics in the different gender roles assigned to us by society.”

On her part Atal said: “I think it is a way of reaching out to other women showing them our talent by expressing our inner feelings through paintings and other forms of art.”

“We also want to prove to those who studied fine art and are not practicing thinking that it is a dirty job. Some people think painting is meant for men and not women, and that is why we are few women in this trade. So we want to challenge the men that we can do or even be better than them,” Atal added.

According to the curator of the Afriart Gallery, Daudi Karungi the exhibition showcased women’s creativity in Uganda with the purpose of displaying their works.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Alchemist - A Testimony of Pursuing One’s Dreams


THE Alchemist is a story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who dreams of travelling the world in search of a treasure as extravagant as any ever found.

In the classic novel by the Brazilian author and one of the world’s most popular spiritual writers, Paulo Coelho, the boy journeys from his home in Spain to the exotic markets of Tangiers and then into the Egyptian desert, where a fateful encounter with the alchemist awaits him.

The story begins with Santiago arriving with his herd at an abandoned church at dusk to spend a night. The roof has fallen in long ago, and an enormous sycamore had grown on the spot where the sacristy had once stood. He always carried a book and a heavy jacket that withstood the cold of the dawn.

It was still dark when he awoke amid a dream. He had had the same dream that night as a week ago, and once again he had awakened before it ended.

Santiago dreamt that he was in a field with his sheep, when a child appeared and began to play with the animals. He did not like people to do that, because the sheep are afraid of strangers. But children always seem to be able to play with them without frightening them. He did not know why. He did not know how animals know the age of human beings.

Suddenly, the child took both his hands and transported him to the Egyptian pyramids. The child said to him, “If you come here, you will find a hidden treasure.” And, just as she was about to show him the exact location, he woke up on both times.

He consulted an old woman who interpreted dreams; she encouraged him to go to Egypt after he promised to share his new riches with her.

Santiago then met the king of Salem. The treasure was in Egypt, near the pyramids, the old man informed the shepherd after he had handed over six sheep to the king.

He attended a seminary until he was sixteen. His parents had wanted him to become a priest, and thereby a source of pride for a simple farm family. The worked hard just to have food and water, like the sheep.

He had studied Latin, Spanish, and theology. But ever since he had been a child, he had wanted to know the world, and this was much more important to him than knowing God and learning about men’s sins. One afternoon, on a visit to his family, he had summoned up the courage to tell his father that he did not want to become a priest. That he wanted to travel after two years of walking the Andulusain terrain. He sold his herd of sheep and left for Africa.

All Santiago’s money was stolen when he got to Africa by a young man who pretended to assist him get to Egypt. He got employed by a crystal glassware merchant and the boy’s creative marketing ideas turned the glass business into a profitable venture. After eleven months and nine days in Africa, Santiago had saved enough money to buy himself a hundred and twenty sheep, a return ticket, and a license to import products from Africa into his own country. He had also learnt Arabic.

“When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it,” the old king had said. But he had not said anything about out being robbed, or about endless deserts, or about people who know what their dreams are but do not want to realize them.

One day after arriving at the Oasis of Al-Fayoum in Egypt, Santiago watched a pair of hawks flying high in the sky. Although their flight appeared to have no pattern, it made a certain kind of sense to him. It was just that he could not grasp what it meant, but he sensed that it was actually going to occur.

On the advice of the camel driver he met the tribal chiefs and relayed the omen of an impending invasion by the neighbouring tribe.

“The oasis is neutral ground. No one attacks an oasis,” one of the chiefs said. The chiefs agreed to break the agreement that forbid one from carrying arms on condition that if there was no invasion one of the arms would be used on the boy.

The boy was then confronted by a man on a white horse dressed in black, with a falcon perched on his left shoulder. “If the warriors come here, and you head is still on your shoulders at sunset, come and find me,” the horseman said. The boy had in fact met the alchemist.

The enemy attacked - and all but one of the intruders (the commander) were killed. The tribal chieftain called the boy, and presented him with fifty pieces of gold, and asked him to become the counselor of the oasis.

Later Santiago asked the alchemist: “Why did you want to see me?

“Because of the omens,” the alchemist answered. “The wind told me you would be coming, and that you would need help…”

“When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream,” said the alchemist, echoing the words of the old king.

“…You already know all you need to know. I am only going to point you in the direction of your treasure,” the alchemist said.

The boy replies that he has already found his treasures; a camel, money from the crystal shop, and fifty gold pieces. Besides that he had Fatima – a girl he had fallen in love with in Al-Fayoum.

“But none of that is from the pyramids,” said the alchemist.

On his way to the pyramids with the alchemist they were arrested after being mistaken for spies, and Santiago lost his gold coins to a chief. They were freed after the boy turned himself into wind.

When they got to a Coptic monastery the alchemist replaced the boy’s gold he had handed over to the general by turning lead into gold. Santiago parted ways with the alchemist before getting to the pyramids – the alchemist returned to the desert.

When he finally got to the pyramids, he began to dig for treasure. Throughout the night, the boy dug at the place he had chosen, but found no treasure.

He is attacked by a group of men, who beat him up and took his gold.

“What good is money to you if you’re going to die? It’s not often that money can save someone’s life,” the alchemist had said.

The boy eventually returned to the abandoned church. The sycamore was still there in the sacristy, and the stars could still be seen through the half-destroyed roof. This time he was not with his flock, but with a shovel.

He began to dig at the base of the sycamore. Half an hour later, this shovel hit something solid. An hour later, he had before him a chest of Spanish gold coins. There were also precious stones, gold masks adorned with red and white feathers, and stone statues embedded with jewels.

The Alchemist is an unforgettable novel about the essential wisdom of listening to our heart and, above all, following our dreams.