Ugandan Contemporary Artworks Gains Recognition.


In the heart of Kampala, Uganda, an art gallery showcases abstract paintings by Charlene Komuntale, a contemporary Ugandan artist, alongside pieces from various African artists. The gallery walls narrate the rich and diverse history of contemporary African art, spanning from prehistoric times with expressions ranging from sculpture and masks to paintings and textiles.


For an extended period, African artists faced a lack of recognition compared to their European and American counterparts. However, a transformative trend is reshaping this narrative, with a surge in art collectors focusing on African contemporary art. Daudi Karungi, an artist and curator at Afriart Gallery, notes this shift, highlighting that the neglect endured until around 7 or 8 years ago.


In the past, expatriates dominated the collector base for contemporary African art, while indigenous Africans often overlooked the stories conveyed through art. Modernization and exposure to diverse cultures have, however, led to a notable rise in local clientele appreciating and consuming African art, especially within the growing Ugandan middle class.


Linda Mutesi, an art collector, emphasizes the urgent need to safeguard African art on the continent. She addresses the historical loss of valuable pieces to global collectors and sees art collection as a crucial intervention to prevent further depletion of intellectual property from the continent.


Reflecting social, political, and cultural changes, African art has evolved over the years. Lillian Nabulime, a sculptor with decades of experience, expresses excitement about the recent surge in art collection. Working on a new piece in her Kampala workshop, Nabulime notes the expanded range of concepts in contemporary art, extending beyond traditional forms to include fashion, film, and video.

Nabulime credits globalization and social media for contributing to the growth of the African art market. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter provide artists with international exposure and selling opportunities, contributing to the overall success of galleries. The optimism is echoed in the Art Basel 2023 report, revealing a significant increase in the auction sales of works by contemporary African artists, reaching $63 million (USD) in 2022 compared to around $47 million (USD) in 2021, showcasing a thriving market for African art.

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