NEW YORK, September 1 – When Marvin Baba looked through the door into the makeshift gallery at the the Uganda North America Association convention in New York, he thought he recognized the art. He had bought a few similar pieces of art but because the paintings were mostly on greeting cards, it never occurred to him that the artist would be big enough to warrant a gallery at the convention.
Baba, a Ugandan who resides in New York and Dallas, Texas, never even paid attention to the name. He just bought the cards and mailed them to friends and family.
“When I saw the paintings I said to myself, ‘They look familiar,’” said Baba. “But I couldn’t figure out where I had seen them.”
It was the art of David Kibuuka, one of the Uganda’s most admired artists, now based in Toronto. A master of oils, acrylics, watercolor, pencil and mixed media, Kabuuka has been drawing and painting since he was a child. He recalled being punished several times for charcoal drawings he made on white walls.
“My father figured out that I wasn’t going to stop,” Kibuuka said, smiling. “So he bought me a sketchbook.”
Kibuuka’s father decision was based on realization that his son was following the footsteps of his older brother, Henry Lumu, who at 20 years old was already a famous artist in Uganda. Lumu, who’s now deceased, went on to become one of the founders of the African Arts Movement, a group dedicated to passing African art skills to others.
“My brother was without a doubt my inspiration,” Kibuuka said.
Kibuuka is also a philanthropist who has donated portions of his sales to charity. His most recent undertaking is a pledge to World Vision Canada to donate a percentage of sales from his art to help fight HIV/AIDS in Africa. When all the pieces of art he has set aside for World Vision Canada are sold, Kibuuka shall have raised $100,000 for the organization.
“It’s much easier for people to part with money when they know they are getting something back,” Kibuuka explained his decision.
Baba said that he buys Kibuuka’s greeting cards because they bring out emotions about his home continent. Baba was even more impressed when he saw larger versions of the greeting card paintings on display. His favorite of Kibuuka’s painting was one named “Hypnotize.”
“He has a way of putting the African soul into the art,” Baba said.
Kibuuka’s paintings are vibrant with colors and hard to ignore even from a distance. The paintings also show some modern elements yet they look traditionally African. Their modern aspect is a result of Kibuuka’s formal education at Ontario College of Fine Arts, where he studied computer animation, graphics and video production from 1984 to 1988.
Though it was her first time to see Kibuuka’s work, Catherine Bukirwa of Fort Myers, Fla. said his talent amazed her.
“He is definitely talented,” said Bukirwa. “That painting reminds me of dancers from my tribe,” she added pointing at a painting of Baganda dancers.
Images from the UNAA convention are updated daily and are available in the GALLERY section of mshale.com
Mshale coverage of the UNAA convention is made possible by Kampala Wire.