6 May 2023–5 July 2023
An Odyssey of Identity
An Odyssey of Identity is an exhibition featuring the work of six artists exploring the multifaceted nature of identity.
Starts 6 May 2023
Ends 5 July 2023
Venue Firetti Contemporary
An Odyssey of Identity features the work of six artists who explore the complexity and multifaceted nature of oneself. Drawing on the influential theories of bell hooks, the exhibition explores the importance of compartmentalizing existence and acknowledging the ever-evolving construct of individuality. These works reflect the interplay of diverse cultural and social spectrums that shape individual experiences.
The artists not only showcase their unique perspectives on the concept of identity but also invite critical exploration of the nuanced and multidisciplinary nature of their African heritage. The works highlight the intersectionality of existentialism, illustrating how various aspects of the self, intersect and interact with one another in intricate and intertwined ways.
Boris Anje's work explores concepts of identity by focusing on the representation and celebration of black bodies and culture. Anne portrays stylish young men and women of African descent in his paintings. He modifies their outfits and uses Adinkra symbols, which are contemporary ways of writing some of the languages spoken in Ghana and Ivory Coast, to contextualize his subjects in global consumerist culture and African symbolism. This mixture of traditional and modern elements reflects the complex and diverse identities of black people, who often have to navigate different cultural and societal expectations. Anje's work challenges stereotypes and celebrates the diversity and beauty of black culture, presenting a vision of identity that is both inclusive and empowering.
In contrast, Collin Sekajugo's mixed media works delve into the complex interplay of social, cultural, economic, and political factors that shape individual and collective identities. Sekajugo draws on multiple cultural sources to create images that engage the viewer with a sense of familiarity and strangeness. His collages challenge the cliché that Africa does not produce art by recycling locally sourced materials like polypropylene bags, denim fabrics, and waste paper. These materials serve as a metaphor for sustainability and durability, inviting conversation about the relationship between art and community. Sekajugo believes that art can be used to catalyze change and promote hope for the future, and his work reflects his social conscience and his commitment to creating a more inclusive and equitable world.
Kansiime Brian Lister's paintings stand out for their exceptional use of oil and acrylic paint to capture the raw emotions of African men and women in society. He tells the incomplete story of African men and women, highlighting their experiences and emotions through his artistry. Through his use of color and symbolism, Lister creates a powerful connection between the history of Africa and modern-day Africa, normalizing modern black luxury and celebrating the progress that has been made. Additionally, his representation of the sentiment of sisterhood and brotherhood shared between black women and men emphasizes their special bond, which is recognized not by blood but through understanding.
Christine Nyatho's fascination with the moon and its symbolism highlights how culture and beliefs shape our identities. Her interest in lunar cycles and their influence on human behavior and culture speaks to the idea that identity is not just shaped by our upbringing and surroundings, but also by external forces such as celestial bodies. By using locally found materials such as bark-cloth, discarded paper, and fabrics, Nyatho also highlights the importance of using materials that are connected to one's cultural identity and heritage.
Meanwhile, Florence Nanteza's focus on the healing properties of plants and herbs speaks to a broader sense of identity, specifically the relationship between humans and the natural world. Her use of banana fiber collages, a traditional material in Uganda, reflects her cultural identity and upbringing. Through her art, Nanteza emphasizes the importance of traditional knowledge and practices, and how they can be used to promote wellness and positive health.
Carson Buka's portraits depict individuals in intimate interactions, often avoiding direct eye contact with the viewer. This technique subverts the typical power dynamic between subject and viewer, causing the viewer to feel like a voyeur rather than an active participant. Buka employs traditional bark cloth from Masaka alongside white canvas, effectively blending tradition and modernity. The use of Pop-art inspired figures in bright colors also comments on how dominant markets create a simplistic portrayal of identity and difference. Instead of presenting a linear narrative of a person, Buka's paintings celebrate the diverse communities and languages of his subjects. By portraying private moments, Buka emphasizes the intricate nature of individual identity and how social norms shape it. Ultimately, his artwork reminds us that identity is multifaceted and cannot be reduced to a singular narrative or perspective.
Through their thought-provoking works, the artists encourage viewers to question the conventional definitions of “identity” and embrace the diversity and ever-changing nature of our identities. An Odyssey of Identity celebrates this diversity in art and highlights the power of visual storytelling to inspire critical reflection and promote social change. As bell hooks has noted,
“Beloved community is formed not by the eradication of difference but by its affirmation, by each of us claiming the identities and cultural legacies that shape who we are and how we live in the world.”
The exhibition reminds us that, as we journey on the path of self-discovery, we must always be open to the ways in which our identities are constantly evolving and being shaped by the world around us.