Collin Sekajugo approaches his work from a distinct, aesthetic departure point that resides in his repeated return to pop culture and the omnipresent influence exuded by the global mainstream, conversing with and critiquing its many biases across visual, oral, and digital cultures. Since 2012, Sekajugo has worked with the manipulation of the common stock image to reveal its inherent biases of entitlement and privilege largely modelled on the Western self. Conceptually, Sekajugo’s works become pure theater, a hacking of identity that exposes truths behind these stock images that quietly continue to colonize the entire globe by the weight of their own popularity.
His paintings, installations, and performance work engage social responsibility, highlighting the link between art and community in East Africa and beyond. Sekajugo’s compositions in saturated color palettes recast these mainstream depictions of mostly white subjects with Black protagonists, highlighting—among many topics—the notion of the “digital plantation” and the risks of a renewed period of African servitude in the generic service industry planned for its future populous by international global corporate interests. As a homage to his community, the artist integrates locally sourced and found materials such as barkcloth and denim fabrics into the surfaces of his works. He also uses discarded consumer materials such as polypropylene bags and wastepaper, in critique of environmentally destructive and globally unsustainable consumption and production patterns.
Shaheen Merali, curator for the Uganda National Pavilion at the 2022 Biennale di Venezia, says: “In appreciating the intriguing desire by Sekajugo ‘to create alternative cosmologies,’ we are preparing for different ‘knowledge and new politics of identity’ in civic engagement and in the changing meanings of race. The imagery with strong vernacular language creates motifs of longing, striking restrained commentaries of Anglospheric aspirations.” The artist’s portraits engage the complex sociopolitical interrelationships experienced by artists from West and Central Africa, channeling the region’s colonial history and its present-day subjugators in the form of environmental racism, foreign corporate interest, and the deterioration of social ties under the reign of e-commerce.
In 2007, Sekajugo opened the Ivuka Project—the first visual arts space founded in Kigali, Rwanda—with the mission statement “Using Art to Change Lives.” In 2010 the artist initiated the Weaver Bird Residency, a community-based arts organization that aims to foster creative development in the Masaka area. The initiative runs art workshops and residencies at Camp Ndegeya, a retreat center in Masaka, bringing the public and the creative sector together to interact beyond the hectic urban atmosphere of Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. More recently, Sekajugo has embarked on the transformation of the visual landscape of his hometown with the initiative Make Masaka, commissioning young artists from the community in mural painting.
Collin Sekajugo (b. 1980, Masaka, Uganda) lives and works in Kampala, Uganda. In 2022 his work was showcased alongside Acaye Kerunen’s in the inaugural and award-winning Uganda National Pavilion at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. His work is represented in international permanent collections including the Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, WI; Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C.; and the U.S. Embassy, Kigali, Rwanda. Sekajugo is also the recipient of the 2019 Chapter 4 Human Rights Award Uganda.
Courtesy: Blum & Poe