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OBJECT OF THE MONTH

June 8, 2017

                

              #1. UNTITLED
BY MULINDWA PETER

Mulindwa Peter is one of the second generation Makerere artists who were active in the 70 and 80s. Like many of his contemporaries he responded in a specific way to the politically repressive periods of the 70 and 80s. For fear of espionage, he chose to couch his criticism for the corrupt leaders in anecdotal subjects. In an interview with G. Kyeyune, Mulindwa confirmed that during the late seventies and early eighties, churches and religious symbols were used to express disgust with what he called “Aminism”—Aminism being a direct reference to Amin’s misrule (A. Kakande- PhD Thesis – 2008).

Mulidwa was a student at Makerere School of Fine Art from 1967 and graduated in 1971. He returned to teach as well as pursue his masters in painting from 1977 – 1982. He however left without completing.

Mulindwa’s work is composed of mythical figures rendered in a limited three dimensionality. He uses pointillism as a way of rendering shapes and forms. The work we are presenting (untitled) demonstrates Mulindwa’s skill in assembling images to narrate a story, a Makerere tradition of mural painting (visual broadsheets). Produced in 1982 as part of a larger corpus of work submitted for his masters the degree whose title was– Art in Toro: Magicology and religion, Mulindwa investigated the relationship between Christianity and the local religions of Toro, his native region.

On every June 3rd, Uganda celebrates the Uganda Martyr’s day. It is a day and indeed a month of spiritual fulfillment and we thought it appropriate to choose Mulindwa, whose work focuses on spiritual narratives to extend our reflection on the modern religion in the context of local life. The painting we are presenting for object of the month, Mulindwa reflects on the duality of the   past and the present. Mulindwa argues that modern education and religion have not erased people’s attachment to traditional religion — it is still efficacious. In the centre-left of the mural are symbols of modern education. They include books, a pallet and brushes, pens, scrolls and a figure dressed in graduation gown. This section of the painting is directional with ladders and arrow leading us to the upper left. Mythical creatures populate the top part walking across the spread. It has been a long but successful hunting day, so the monkey figure seem to intimate. There is struggle at the bottom of the painting—a sword is piercing and wounding a potentially dangerous serpent. In both Christianity and ancestral worship, a serpent is a sign of the devil. The dove above it signifies peace and tranquility. Its proximity here ensures control and suffocation of the evil. Cowry shells are interspersed throughout the painting. They were once valuable as currency– today they are valuable as materials for a modern artist—artists who insist on using the past as building blocks.

Note: Mulindwa’s works with similar imagery of reptilian creatures with claws, sharp knives include:
Owls Drums Death- 1982, Untitled (Tormented by a Vicious Attack); 1970s.

Mukyala Hasifa

References
George Kyeyune PHD thesis – 2003, Angello Kakande PHD thesis – 2008, visiting the Makerere permanent collection storage and School of Fine Art registration forms archive- 1970s.

 

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