By Bamuturaki Musinguzi
Published March 5, 2018
Driven by the desire to protect the environment, Kenya banned plastic bags in 2017 and, in the process, appear to have ‘absolved’ super markets from packing merchandise for shoppers. But did you know that the very plastic bags that are said to contaminate the environment could be turned into utilitarian art?
A fashion label called Njola Impressions has just demonstrated how plastic bags known in Kampala as kavera are recycled into trendy key holders while cleaning up the environment.
“We collected two tonnes of waste plastic bags in 2017 alone for our recycling business in some Kampala slums. We are training the youth free of charge on how to make materials from waste in the process cleaning our environment,” Allen Nabukenya, a fine arts graduate of Kyambogo University and founder of Njola Impressions, said. “We also use old car tyres and sandals to make bags. We have to clean our environment.”
Njola Impressions, one of the creative minds that used the Night of Ideas (La Nuit des Idées) to to show how ideas make change in the universe, also said it makes belts, shoes and back packs, among other accessories, from recycled industrial materials.
Night of Ideas was initiated by the Institut Français in 2017 and launched in 51 countries around the world. The theme of the second edition of the event that was held at National Theatre in the Ugandan capital on January 25, 2018 was ‘Power to the Imagination’.
With the aim of the event being to encourage people to share artistic ideas through gatherings and dialogue, artists took advantage of the event to debate ideas, perform dances and showcase visual arts.
Oscar Ssenyonga, a dancer and choreographer from Uganda, presented a dance titled ‘Dictatorship Democracy: The Current and Past Situation in Uganda’ that takes a critical look at contemporary Uganda as the East African country reflects on its troubled political past.
Papsher Victor, a Congolese dancer and choreographer who lives in Uganda performed a dance titled ‘African Dream Again’.
African Dream Again is a vision of an African continent in which people ‘talk about love, hope, strength and courage,’ according to Victor from Congo-Kinshasa.
“We fall, we get up. We see ourselves touching each other. We call one another; we listen to one another, because we all have a dream. Let me dream, I dream of a real world, a world without violence, without crime, without massacres. A world in which I want to talk about love, hope, strength and courage,” Papsher Victor said.
Also performing in the spirit of the Night of Ideas was Denis Plassard from France. He presented a 21-minute double-faced dance titled Derrière la Tête (Behind the Head). The solo performance captured the never-ending gaze of the viewer. In the dance, two characters come alive alternately: the impassive one who waits behind the head and the masked one who tries to restore the sense of things (and the body). They co-exist and fight to impose their own hellish logic. Neither of the positions (face or back) is really stable, no image is consistent.
In Behind the Head, visions of strangers succeed one another, creating unreal puppets. There is a sense of ambivalence and duplicity. One man and one body seems to belong to two heads. It is impossible to know what an illusion is and what is not. The more human masked face sometimes seems more false than its abstract twin. The members seem to belong to an incredibly lively puppet, a moving body. Although completely silent, this double being is incredibly talkative. Nothing is free in its circus: it never despairs that it’s not heard.
Visual artists who exhibited under the ‘Totally Wajinga Collective’ label comprised graffiti artist Bankslave and DJ and instrumentalist Obwakassonn from Kenya, Hibo Afrokush the Nomad from Somalia and Bagamundu from USA.
Bankslave created an improvised artwork in a public space accompanied by music. Hailing from Kibera slum in Nairobi, Bankslave is known as the founding father of Kenyan graffiti street art. For more than 15 years, he has been making social and political commentary on Nairobi’s street walls and around the world.
During the Ubuntu Talks held under the topic “How can we be our own salvations?”, presentations were made by various entrepreneurs and artists who have found a way to sustain themselves through their creativity today in an economy that lacks jobs and diversity. The aim was to inspire attendees to think for themselves and aim to find creative self-sustaining solutions while networking with like minds.
Kimani Muturi, the proprietor of a Kampala-based vocational skills-development organisation called Texfad Limited that deals in textiles, talked about products that can be produced from banana fibre with and that can be used in the textile industry.
Muturi, a researcher in developing natural yarns and textiles from banana fibres, has introduced and developed textile programmes in both Kyambogo and Makerere universities.