Ugandan Sculpture Artists Are Making Their Mark in East Africa
By Paul Ndiho
In western Uganda, a new award-winning sculpture gallery and art center called “Rwenzori Founders” boasts of a unique collection of high end bronze sculptures. The costly and rigorous casting process is rare in Uganda.
Started nearly a decade ago, the Rwenzori founders’ art center is located in the foothills of Rwenzori Mountains in western Uganda. The gallery sits in harmony with recently the restored natural landscape. Emmanuel Basaza is the director.
“Rwenzori founders is a beautiful place. We started in 2004 slowly; we got it built by us three people going to train in England. And then from there, we came and started the project itself here on the ground in 2008, and that is the bronze casting process.”
So this is bronze. It’s very precious. But the way to sell is actually to penetrate it right. Now, penetration is a process of oxidation where we now use chemicals on bronze. This is an example. This is black and green put together. Black is potassium sulfate or ammonia Sulphate. Green is copper nitrate. I hate chemistry but i had to learn it. It’s part of the process. So, you get those put together to achieve the colors. Now the catching thing about penetration is the waxing.”
Tourists are treated to a stunning display of works cast in the gallery by a group of 16 permanent craftsmen. Pure white Ugandan marble carvings rub shoulders with soapstone and the bronze pieces created by diverse local artists.
A series of more than 30 animals in bronze are permanently on display, capturing the glory of the native species … elephants, lions, buffalos, colobus, and hippos.
“Well 15 groups of people coming in a month, we might make a few sales, about 10 sales a month and on average, a basic client totem sculpture would go for $1200.”
Mr. Basaza says that these remarkable pieces of art are a reflection of the people, culture, wildlife and the beauty of Uganda.
“All of us are local to this area apart from 1 or 2. So the rest of the team is actually from this village. So we have actually promoted the same culture of bronze casting, starting with our village mates.” “This is pure bronze unhampered with. And now, this is classified as finished.”
The Rwenzori Sculpture Foundation supports the sculpture gallery, enabling cultural and educational exchanges between artists in Africa and the United Kingdom. The gallery is rapidly becoming a popular tourist destination, showcasing the best of modern African art.
Paul Ndiho is a Ugandan – American video journalist/ executive producer, Africa Innovations & Technology based in Washington D.C with interests in innovation, technology and entrepreneurship in Africa. He is passionate about mentorship and developing the next generation of Africa’s young leaders. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook: Paul Ndiho and Twitter: @pndiho