For the first time, Uganda will have a pavilion at the Venice Biennale. When the exhibition’s 59th edition kicks off this April, Uganda will become one of 81 countries to host a national pavilion, joining other first-timers like Kazakhstan and Oman.
Curated by Shaheen Merali, a Tanzania-born, London-based writer and curator, the first-ever Ugandan Pavilion will be titled Radiance: They Dream in Time and will feature works by two Kampala-based artists, Acaye Kerunen and Collin Sekajugo, at the Palazzo Palumbo Fossati. Merali has served as head of exhibitions at the Haus der Weltkulturen in Berlin, and also has experience curating biennials, having served as a co-organizer of the Gwangju Biennale in South Korea in 2006.
Kerunen creates wall hangings and installations that use materials traditionally used by Ugandan artisans and craftsmen. These pieces consider the “agency of women’s work in Africa and [act as] an acknowledgment of the role that this artistic labor plays in the climate ecosystem,” the Ugandan Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development said in a statement announcing the pavilion. Sekajugo produces paintings of figures using stock images, often rendering subjects in stark black to interrogate Western assumptions about race.
In a statement, Merali said that the show’s title refers to “the essential knowledge and lived experiences of Kerunen and Sekajugo in speaking to the many different territories of Uganda, as well as to urban trade and living conditions in its urban centers.”
Commissioned by Ugandan official Juliana Akoryo Naumo, the pavilion is sponsored by the country’s Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development agency, which oversees national initiatives in the culture sector. Stjarna.art and the Uganda National Cultural Centre (UNCC) are also supporting the exhibition.