Ugandan artist calls for promoting African art with China

Source:Xinhua 2019-03-19

  KAMPALA, March 18 (Xinhua) -- Tucked away in his studio in Kisasi, one of the suburbs of Uganda's capital Kampala, 52-year-old Fred Mutebi paints on a barkcloth canvass.

  Mutebi prefers to use barkcloth canvass instead of the conventional canvass in a bid to promote genuine African art.

  He is passionate about African art. He has been practicing for the last 25 years since he left university.

  He told Xinhua in a recent interview that his art has been exhibited in different parts of the world including China, adding that he believed that African art is appreciated globally.

  As China and Africa continue to deepen their cooperation ranging from trade and investment to people- -to-people ties, Mutebi holds that promotion and appreciation of African art must be factored in.

  He said African and Chinese artists can cooperate by working on joint projects and exploring the rich African culture through art.

  He also said that Chinese can invest in African art since there is a global movement of people who appreciate the art.

  Mutebi said most of Africa's art is natural and rotates around the day to day life of people especially in the rural areas where there is little foreign influence.

  Mutebi cited the example of harvesting the bark of Ficus natalensis, commonly known as a Mutuba tree.

  He said the process of turning the bark into barkcloth and also protecting the stem of the tree whose bark has been removed, is all art.

  The bark is hit with wooden mallets using special skills until it turns into a finer fabric.

  Yellowing banana leaves are wrapped around the tree stem to help the stem recuperate and another bark to grow.

  All this art, according to Mutebi, is fading because the craftsmen are now elderly and dying.

  However, currently, there is a new wave of young artists who are interested in African art.

  He said these artists need to be nurtured to appreciate genuine African art.

  This also means that the artists, either local or international, need to use African materials in their pieces.

  "I do not want a situation where the young ones are going to present what was introduced to us. We who have been artists for a long time should inspire them," he said.

  Mutebi with support from his community members back in his village about 150 km from Kampala has started a school.

  The school which will also act as a cultural village to attract tourists, will train youngsters on African craftsmanship.

  Every weekend pupils from neighboring communities come to the school to learn. Mutebi has also brought together some elderly craftsmen who impart skills on the young ones.

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