Tewa takes upcoming artists on identity trip

VillageMarket1
VillageMarket1

Online art exhibitions and catalogues are fast gaining ground among young Kenyan artists wanting to be seen, and their artworks shown.

One man who has popularised this trend is Thadde Tewa who has created online catalogues for everyone from Onyis Martin and David Thuku to Nadia Wamunyu and Doreen Mueni to Abushariaa Ahmed and Coster Ojwang.

But currently, Tewa has taken the works of two up-and-coming East African artists to the rooftop of Village Market where Sheila Bayley and Muramuzi John Bosco share an exhibition entitled ‘Trace Back’.

Aiming to give the public a sense of where these two have come from and who they are, Tewa actually drew upon an identity issue that both are already addressing in meaningful ways through their art.

Sheila Bayley grew up artistically during the Covid-19 pandemic after losing her job managing a German construction enterprise.

“I never went to art school, but I have always painted and found it comforting somehow,” she told the BDLife.

And once she started getting serious about her art, Sheila quickly began to sell her work. “I have a large family and they has always been supportive of me, so that was encouraging,” she admits.

One of her older sisters is a nurse, and she is the one who found Sheila as a baby dropped off and left by an anonymous mother at her hospital’s doorstep.

“For some reason, she took me home and I have been a Bayley ever since,” she explains.

It's no wonder that identity is a serious concern for Sheila who says all her works at Village Market reflect aspects of her query into who she is.

As it turns out, her art is filled with beautiful people. Particularly beautiful women bedecked in colourfully designed gowns, as in Girl at the Lake where a young girl is seated beside a pond surrounded by beautiful people, especially women, who are also portrayed in paintings like Blue Windows and The Liquid State of my Mind.

VillageMarket2
VillageMarket2

Yet her art isn’t only filled with women. All her paintings are delicately drawn in meticulous lines and forms, often appearing like anonymous beings, one of whom might be her unidentified mother.

Working in both acrylic and mixed media on paper and canvas, Sheila’s art has an intensity to it that is electrifying in an enchanting way.

The charm is in the details which she regularly brings to life through nature’s colours, of the sun and moon-lit blue sky, the turquoise water and orange horizon.

Meanwhile, Muramuzi has much in common with Bayley, particularly as both have an intensity of style which means their paintings are meticulously drawn and detailed to the point where every stroke seems significant in telling their wider stories.

Sheila’s are more internal yet expressive of the loved ones who are important to her, starting with herself. One of her works, entitled Heading On has two heads apparently conversing with one another.

“Both of those heads are me,” says Sheila, who being the mother of one little girl, considers everything she does with that little girl also in mind.

Muramuzi talks about how he grew up in a village in Western Uganda among Ankole cows, and how he adapted swiftly when he first came to Kampala.

“But to me, Kampala is also a giant village,” he tells the BDLife on the Saturday the show opened.

Yet I wonder which side of Kampala is as overgrown with entangling vines and roots, branches and moss-covered tree trunks found in Muramuzi’s village scenes.

His rural background overflows in all of his richly organic paintings. His are as intense, if not more so, than Sheila’s in that he seems to layer one path into the bush country on top of the next.

Occasionally, he will highlight a school or a school bus rambling through the bush. In one of his works, you can even see a mkokotene loaded down with bags of charcoal extracted from the richly-fertile forest.

One just hopes that is not the precursor to the gradual plundering the land of its beautiful trees, turning this luscious side of Uganda into a desert as dry as the Sahara.

VillageMarket3
VillageMarket3

Tewa clearly has an eye for artists who are coming into their own and exploring new perspectives on the African experience.

It’s important because the rest of the world only knows about West African art and the likes of El Anatsui who are fabulous artists but not the only ones who exist in sub-Saharan Africa.

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