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interviewed by Nkule Mabaso

Daudi Karungi Director Kampala Art Biennale

Kampala Art Biennale 2016 will be held from 3rd September to 2nd October 2016 in Kampala. The Artistic Director is Ms. Elise Atangana.
The theme is “Seven Hills”, in reference to the seven hills that circle Kampala city. It will be an experimental territory for local and international artists to explore new forms and ideas.
Related to mobility studies, the Biennale aims to question, with an aesthetic and intellectual approach, the transformation of movements in public space, physically or virtual (‘public domain’ and technology related) and how it affects the daily life of the population in Kampala and the East African sub-region perspectives.

Nkule Mabaos: What possibility does the position/positioning of this biennale have in defining and/or redefining geographical and cultural regions within the continent?

Daudi Karungi: Art from Africa on the international stage has always been dominated by West and South African artists. Names like El Anatsui, William Kentridge, etc. Also platforms like the Dakar art biennale and Johannesburg art fair have always been the spotlights on the continent as far as contemporary art is concerned. Kampala Biennale seeks to create a continental balance so that something major also happens in East Africa.

NM: Does it produce a counter discourse? Geographical position alone of course cannot do this, so what is the greater potential in another Africa-based biennial in contributing to the de-colonialisation discourse?

DK: Kampala Biennale focuses a lot on artists who have not previously been featured in major international art events. The Biennale aims to break the sameness of artists you find at every major art event. This is done by creating a careful mix of international and emerging and local contemporary artists.

NM: The ambition with the biennial format is always to be comprehensive and representative—has this been the approach for the curatorial direction of the biennale project in Kampala?

DK: The Biennale director’s role is to appoint an artistic director, who proposes his or her own curatorial program. Once we have a curator, he or she proposes how comprehensive and representative they plan to be. Since we are in our infancy, we cannot afford to be very comprehensive because of budgets.

NM: Biennale projects suffer a kind of crisis in conceptualisation in that they do not present any new premise or possibility but reassert what is already there and can be seen to gloss over ‘real’ and ‘local’ issues in their reproduction of internationality at the expense of the immediate context. How do you respond to this statement in relation to the biennale in Kampala and your role in the conceptualisation process?

DK: I guess all this depends on the choice of artistic director. When choosing one, we look at someone with a proposal that will inspire the selected artists to create works that communicate the immediate. The biennale seeks to be different, so we believe that artists have to be honest and original with how they approach the theme in order to make the desired impact on the visiting audience.

NM: What does it mean to produce a biennale in Kampala: culturally, economically, and politically?

DK: Contemporary art as it is internationally know is alien to Kampala and its people. We set out to position the biennale in Kampala in order to educate and expose this culture of art to the people in Kampala. Increased knowledge about contemporary art will lead to more creative artists, local collectors, and critics.

NM: Biennials and other large-scale art events cannot be separated from the mechanics of capital; what are the implications and effects of the biennial in the context of Kampala? Is the model sustainable for the context?

DK: Finance continues to be a major issue, of course. We are aware of this and we decided earlier on to build partnerships with sponsors, all our partners own the Biennale and we steadily grow with them. I believe this is sustainable in the long run.

Images courtesy of Dauadi Karungi from Kampala Art Biennale 2014

Daudi Karungi
Born 1979, Kampala Uganda
Lives and works in Kampala

Daudi is at the forefront of a new movement to promote Ugandan art inside and outside the country. In 2007, he co-founded START, a journal of arts and culture criticism that is the first ever publication of its kind in Uganda. His a founding member of the Kampala Arts Trust, a coalition of artists and art appreciators in the country and elsewhere who are working toward the dream of establishing a modern art museum in the country. It will facilitate research, exchange programs and training as well as offering a state-of-the-art exhibition space for local works. In 2014 he started the 1st Kampala Art Biennale 2014 and worked as the Artistic Director.

Born in Kampala, Daudi went to the Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Arts at Makerere University. Afriart Gallery, which he founded in 2002, is now Uganda’s leading gallery. It remains devoted to developing and promoting homegrown visual artistic talent and in recent years has hosted readings by local fiction writers and other events that promote the work of Ugandans working in the creative arts. Daudi is involved in a number of innovative cross-media collaborations, such as a project using original art illustrations to promote reading among secondary school students, The paint the music project (a fusion of music and art), All color No color (a project that is aimed at breaking racial barriers), Spear and Shield bearers (a photography project celebrating significant women in Uganda).





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