Art is not a ‘side dish’: Interview with Ugandan artist Teddy Nabisenke
Nabisenke is quickly becoming a household name in Uganda and East Africa’s art scene. The jewelry and installation artist recently held her first unique and creatively inspired exhibition at the heart of Kampala. Nabisenke finds art as language to tickle the audience about prevailing issues using a variety of materials especially discarded ones to send out her message.
Nabisenke was kind enough to grant a us an interview, detailing much about her art, work, music and personality ….with our art and culture writer Musungu Okach.
Musungu: Just before we get on with this, tell us in one word, who is Teddy Nabisenke?
Musungu: Tell us about your art?
Teddy: I am a jeweler, interactive installation artist and majored in history of art. I like it when my Art tickles that person who thinks is settled. Musungu: What inspires you in making your art and installations? Teddy: The 5 senses (the feel, taste, sight, scent and sound) of human nature inspire me that much. Musungu: Who influences your art? Do you have any artists, well dead or alive who motivate you in the craft? Teddy: Individuals who are too keen on their craft really influence my art moods. For example, Bob Marley’s concious music gets me working. And also our very Ugandan ‘ Maddox Semanda Ssematimba’. Musungu: Who from outside the art world inspires you to do what you do? Teddy: Someone who says a thing about my work. Whether good or negative. So i should say, My African empress ( my mother) qualifies.
Art by Teddy Nabisenke, Photo Courtesy: Teddy Nabisenke
Musungu: Now, why do you do your art?
Teddy: I find Art as the best, easier way to communicate and dialogue with the world (any audience). Art is so welcoming. Just imagine i used to listen to Congolese music yet the language was not my friend..thats Art.
Musungu: Where do you and have you exhibited your work? Tell us your experiences? Teddy: Nommo gallery, Makerere art gallery, But I’m so comfortable with art festivals, because through these more audience from all walks of life are met. LaBa street art festival and Bayimba festival of the arts have been key for me.
Musungu: You recently exhibited your work at the Design Agenda Bar and Restaurant in Kampala Uganda dubbed the Tsenke Xperience. How was the Tsenke Xperience to you? Teddy: This was really a good experience for my solo. I got to know those exact audience who wanted to understand my works. And even that experience of an exhibition in a resturant setting, where by one has come to have a meal but he or she spares off time to ask about my art. This taught me as an artist to make it possible to extend my art works to more and more people. It’s us (artists) to look for the audience.
Musungu: Why did you choose the title “Tsenke Xperience” Teddy: “Tsenke”…those are initials of my name ‘ Teddy Nabisenke’. So Tsenke means the works of Art i create. The ‘ Tsenke Experience’ was meant to bring audience closer to my works.
Musungu: Given everything you have going on, what are your plans for the future? With regards to your work and the creative industry in Uganda and East Africa as a whole?
Teddy: Ohh really, more things are coming. My future career would be ‘ Creative Art Curator’. Of course the baby step was noticed when i coordinated the East African Visual Artists’ Connect Exhibition. I always love to be next to the Creatives.
Musungu: You have basically been into things art, as it were in East Africa, art has yet to take roots compared to the rest of the world, pick the example of South Africa, to you, what is the level of art education in Uganda? Why do you perceive it as so? Teddy: Mmmh….Art Education in Uganda, as a country we still need to work harder. The concerned parties should make art education a big priority which will boost the Creative industry. Musungu: I know this is a sore spot given the prevailing political temperatures in Uganda. What is your opinion on the current political landscape and media censorship? Teddy: Politics is the epitome for all policies. So Bad politics Bad policies, which wont make the creative industry to strive. Those in the driving seats should understand that Art can bring in good revenue when it’s nurtured well. Musungu: Do you think things will change in the country? Are artist free to practice critical art?
Teddy: Hahaaa….as artists we have to be sure of our goals. Do you think Bob Marley was loved by all creatures!! Noo. But he clearly knew what to do.’ Create good art with a message’. Ok they will change if artists get to stand up. We should not lose hope.
Musungu: What are some of the challenges artists go through in Uganda?
Teddy: First challenge, are the concerned individuals to pretend about the presence of art. Art is beyond collecting a few dancers to welcome visitors at the airport. Art is not a ‘side dish’. Art marketing and packaging to meet that audience. Some artists have failed to clearly understand that we can be concious and at the same time earn from our creations. Musungu: What else does Teddy do? Teddy: I freelance with any job which can make my head up.
Musungu: How do you work on your pieces, is it one piece at a time or several pieces at a time? Teddy: Haaaaa….it depends on my mood and pressure. If a certain piece is boring, i normally opt to look through the next piece of work. But i love to beat the deadlines because it makes my career to seem real and respected. Musungu: What to you is an ideal African Fashion? Teddy: African Fashion….a declaration of your own freedom. If am to wear beads or seeds all throuh, thats me..so no one has to think am naked. With african fashion more reasons are attached it.
Musungu: Who or what is Teddy Nabisenke when she is not creative? Teddy: Would you really want to know!! I am that too talkative may be, settling and unsettling people with my jazz. Mmh visiting here and there. But the only thing which can cut off my creative moods, is Sleep. Musungu: Where is the best place to stay in Kampala or Uganda for that matter? Teddy: When you are a happening person and with no stress.., Kalangala or Ssese Islands (for visits) Entebbe and Jinja towns are okay. But I would prefer outside Kampala, away from the jam and noise.
Musungu: What are some of your best cultural experiences? Teddy: I love the fact that Uganda has many cultural groups, but everyone protects it as serious wealth. Musungu: Uganda has the Bayimba cultural Festival and Nyege Nyege International Festival, what in your opinion is the implication of these festivals in Uganda’s creative economy? Teddy: I guess they have a mileage to the Ugandan economy. And they have created a platform for both the professional and upcoming artists/artistes. Though we need streamlined guidelines for better results.
Musungu: Apart from the two festivals, which other festivals would you encourage first time visitors to attend? Teddy: Amakula International Film Festival and LaBa Street Art Festival.
Musungu: In matters entertainment, do you go clubbing, where is the best place to club?
Teddy: Club Guvnor. Musungu: What are some of the peculiar things about you that people don’t know? Teddy: Nonsense to Pretenders Musungu: One more thing… Apart from art that is jewellery and other intallations at Afroway, we identify ourselves with unique and the good stuff including music. So we got to ask. What is your favorite music?
Teddy: Reggae music… Especially Roots reggae and Lover’s rock.
Musungu: What do you think of Ugandan music and its place on the African music map?
Teddy: We need more plans of packaging our music to reach more people. But we are there, not so bad. What’s needed is hard work and the urge to sell quality and creative artistes.
Musungu: Does art pay? If so what would you tell a struggling artist out there?
Teddy: Yes. Art pays to those who work smart. To the struggling artist, first understand why you are an artist. Love your works, then the audience will also spare off papers (money) to buy your works. Create, Make and Inovate. And, Go on with it to earn from your artistic career. Musungu: Okay finally, what is your Afroway thing about being African?
Teddy: The availability of many natural and inorganic materials ready to be exploited to make works of art. Musungu: Any parting words for your fans and art lovers? Teddy: I sign out with some lyrics from Bob Marley’s song ” Redemption song”………..Emancipate yourselves from Mental slavery….have no fear for atomic energy Because none of them can stop the Time. Let’s Love, appreciate and understand Art.
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