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Affirmative Art Exhibition- workshop and closure.

May 29, 2017

Affirmative Art Exhibition and workshop has been running for the past two weeks and will be closing on Saturday 3rd June. Come and paint your dream with us.

Affirmative Art –New perspectives in empowering through art
Article by George Kyeyune.

In 2008, Makerere Art Gallery hosted an exhibition to celebrate Women’s’ Day. In that exhibition we went beyond the routine displaying works of art –we wanted the exhibition to be more interactive. On a canvas of 8X6 feet, visitors to the exhibition were asked to write, draw or paint anything that they thought brought them closer to the rhetoric of women’s emancipation. The result was a display of dazzling colors and texts loaded with passionate and intimate stories about our mothers and sisters.  Expressions of the centrality of women in participants’ lives were loud and clear. But more importantly, I realized that the activity enabled a deeper reflection on women as mothers and a focused appreciation of their contribution to society. —- An empowering experience indeed. Unfortunately, there was no follow up on this project and canvas is gathering dust, yet to be deconstructed.

It was a delight to listen to Erick’s project of Affirmative Art because I knew that, even much more than women’s exhibition canvas, it had immense possibilities.  While this canvas solicited for opinions of participants about their mothers etc.., the Affirmative Art project is designed to bring about personal empowerment. Some of us have been privileged to build our careers in art. This however does not mean that ‘non artists’ have no access to the benefits of art making. Indeed, we are all born with some competencies in art production and therefore we can use these competencies however limited to speak our mind. Eirick reminded me something fundamentally important. He said  –and I am paraphrasing– “art is a medium/tool that can give you the liberty to reveal yourself in a personal and honest way”— an observation which I entirely agree with given that – as the old saying goes—a picture is worth more than a thousand words.

If art is accessible to everyone—at least at a basic level, it can then be a vehicle to transmit messages about ourselves and in the case of Affirmative Art, self-empowerment. Affirmative Art according to Eirick, is about dreaming and following your dream to the end. It is about our future and making a promise to do whatever it takes to achieve our dreams—dreams which are of course achievable. To that end, it is essential that we make a self-assessment of who we realistically are and what we have so far achieved and then proceed to dream. Some people have a clear image of their dream houses, dream farm or whatever. When these aspirations are scribbled on a surface, they are visualized and, it is possible to reflect on them and they get even closer when text is added and integrated to become part of the art work. Drawing is freer than talking as Eirick reminds.

Eirick recommends that a team of four or five people is constituted and produce a painting or any other convenient art work. They discuss their hopes and fears. They scribble down their aspiration and on a shared canvas where they reveal their dreams. Once formed, the team should stick together and on a regular basis, members update each other on their progress and challenges if any. The internal cohesion comes from the regular sharing and the inherent support within that group.  They form as it were, an Affirmative Art club—a platform for critical self-appraisal and collective dialogue. That, art is able to transform their lives for the better, is by now a foregone conclusion.

Affirmative Art is a project whose relevance and value in Uganda cannot be over emphasized. Thousands of businesses are started every year but only a handful survive their first anniversary.  Affirmative Art can go a long way in saving many of those fledgling ideas and ensure their survival. Uganda indeed desperately needs Affirmative Art given the high levels of unemployment. What Eirick is introducing is innovation that is designed to prepare people of all ages, to embrace and benefit economically, emotionally, spiritually and physically.

Beyond the social and economic empowerment platform, I also know that for those with a passion and interest in art, Affirmative Art introduces yet another approach to art making. We are used to paintings with a singular voice and one signature. We are now talking about multiple voices (when participants work together as a team) and the final product exhibits a variety of styles, emphases and commitments. In there lies the evidence of love, mutual respect and support as well as appreciation of our gifts.

It is an honor and privilege for the Institute of Heritage Conservation and Restoration to host Affirmative Art in action. I am confident that Affirmative Art will not leave us the same, besides, I speculate, it will suggest other possibilities in art for the benefit of all of us.

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