By Stephen Ssenkaaba
IN the aftermath of his death, many things have been done to eulogize Nelson Mandela. It was mostly through the predictable channels: TV, Social Media, radio, newspaper and magazines. How about art for a change?
Some people have been thinking out of the Television, PC Box, and thank heavens a young trainee artist found an ingenious way of celebrating the life of Mandela.
Ibrahim Mukiibi and his trainer Nuwa Wamala Nnyanzi produced two eye catching oil on canvass paintings of Madiba’s portrait. The two portraits now stand facing the visitor’s entrance inside Nnyanzi’a art studio at the cultural village, next to the National Theatre. These two pieces depict a smiling Mandela with his grandfather-ish face and well turned out in his colourful Madiba flowery shirts.
Mukiibi is a resident painter at Nnyanzi’s art studio. He has been working under the supervision of the experienced batik painter for close to a year now. He says it took him a week to paint each of these beautiful works.
The two paintings depict Mandela’s face in painstaking detail enhanced with the artist clever use of rich texture and collage. “I had to use different layers of paint to bring out the different tones of Mandela’s wrinkling face,” he says.
Mukiibi’s style borders on the impasto technique where thick layers of paint are applied on the canvass to bring out a rich texture and character in the subject. To successfully bring out the colourful glory of the Madiba shirt, Mukiibi actually sowed a real shirt over his sketch, further creating an interesting collage effect.
This technique adds a bit more richness to the texture, so much Mandela’s shirt can be felt. These two portraits thrive on a richly expressive style to immortalize a man that lives in many people’s lives well beyond his death. His smile, his characteristic floral attire, his almost iconic white hair that made old age kind of cool and that boyish twinkle in the eye all successfully come out in this work that Nnyanzi and Mukiibi are finding very hard to attach a price to.
For Mukiibi, Painting Mandela brought the man that he always admired but could not meet ever closer. “I feel privileged to have painted this great man,” he told me in an interview. Not many paintings of Mandela- have been done by Ugandan artists to date. So in commissioning probably the first such work here, Nnyanzi art studio has successfully contributed to an ongoing documentation of one of history’s greatest icons.