A note of appreciation by Professor Roberts Muriisa, Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Uganda


Ingmar Lähnemann, Städtische Galerie Bremen, and Professor Roberts Muriisa, Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Uganda

A note of appreciation by Professor Roberts Muriisa on the occasion of the finissage in Bremen

My standing here is not to give a speech and definitely not to tell another story of Art and Mobility. This story has been told, and well told. But to thank all those who have contributed to the success of this exhibition. Dr. Lydia Potts and Dr. Katharina Hoffmann for coordinating this project very well. I thank all who developed the concept and the running tittle for the exhibition: the project coordinators, the curators, Raphael Chikukwa, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Katrin Peters-Klaphake, Makerere Art Gallery in Kampala (Uganda) and Dr. Ingmar Lähnemann Städtische Galerie Bremen (Germany) as well as the directors of the galleries, Doreen Sibanda, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Dr. George Kyeyune, Makerere Art Gallery, and Rose Pfister, Städtische Galerie Bremen. The curators and directors not only opened their doors to this exhibition but also accepted to work together with Dr. Potts, a none artist, to make this exhibition come true. I also thank the curatorial assistants for their strong efforts: Fadzai Muchemwa, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Anna Kućma, Makerere Art Gallery in Kampala, and Dr. Alejandro Perdomo Daniels, Städtische Galerie Bremen. Great thanks to all the artists who filled the gaps here and there to tell the story of migration and mobility through art. This exhibition would not have been successful without putting together a catalogue that added life to the works of art that were exhibited. A Great thank you to Katharina Hoffmann for coordinating the contributors and having the catalogue in place. Thanks to all who contributed and finally, yet importantly to the TURN Fund of the German Federal Cultural Foundation for funding this programme.

I come from a university where art has no place; I never knew that I would have any connection to art. Through this exhibition, you have made people like me who come from universities such as mine proud and part of you. You have shown us that there is another way we can make the knowledge we produce visible to the outside world.

We have been telling the story of migration and mobility. At the European Master of Migration and Intercultural Relations (EMMIR), and other preceding programmes, we have been telling this story, and other scholars, historians, geographers and human geographers, just to mention some, have been telling it. But you have told it in a different way. Through the blend of modernity and tradition, you have made the invisible visible; from the long forgotten migration histories of the 30,000 Polish refugees in Uganda and other forgotten histories told in this exhibition of oppression of migrants to borders imposed by different forces such as colonialism and tribal demarcations you are able to tell why different people migrate. We know that migration is a give and take and the losses imposed by migration are what we have to deal with in our new places and dealing with new challenges of life and adapting to new conditions, unemployment, loneliness, social, economic and political exclusion are some of the issues migrants have to deal with.

The Nakivart Group, an embryonic and struggling group of young artists in the Nakivale settlement, Uganda, who not only find art a way of passing time for psychological healing, but also a way through which their talent can remain alive. Even though they live on minimal resources, symbolic of life at the margin, the way of life of many refugees and migrant communities, through art, they keep hope alive.

Through this exhibition we learn that even when we migrate we remain close to our loved ones, a new way to being hopeful. Immy Mali’s “Virtually Mine”, shows clearly that when we migrate with the help of modern technology, we are a distance away and at the same time remain closely in touch with our loved ones.

I could go on and on. You tell the story in diverse ways, yet you remain consistent, migration is what we live with, yesterday, today and tomorrow. Like Kabbo Kamuwala, the Girl’s Basket, which never dries up of the gifts, we keep moving and alive. The story of Kabbo Kamuwala is told as follows: Kabbo Kamuwala is coined from a Luganda saying, “Kabbo Kamuwala Kagenda Kajude, Kakomawo Kajude” meaning the girl’s basket, is taken when full and comes back full. Traditionally, gifts to distant relations, friend and family would be carried by girls in a basket (the girl’s basket), the girl(s) would wait for her (their) basket(s) and would only return when the basket is filled with gifts to carry back home. Before the basket is filled, the girls would wait because the girl’s basket would never be returned empty. Sometimes, the family where the girl visited would find the girl a suitable bride to be, and the basket would not be filled, the girl would wait unknowingly, being studied until she became a wife to some young man in that home. The girl would thus transit from being a girl into the new life of becoming a wife.

The Girl’s Basket- Kabbo Kamuwala is symbolic of migration and mobility, which is “triggered by movement of people, and peoples; experiences of transition as well as the transition of experience into new modalities … new ways of being” (Chikukwa, Raphael, Katharina Hoffmann, Ingmar Lähnemann, Katrin Peters-Klaphake and Lydia Potts (eds.), 2016. KABBO KA MUWALA – THE GIRL’S BASKET. Migration and Mobility in Contemporary Art in Southern and Eastern Africa. Berlin: Revolver Publishing, p.82)
Once again, I thank you for connecting Universities with Art and to show that we can tell our story differently.