By Stephen Ssenkaaba
JOSHUA Ipoot’s work can make you cry. It can confuse you. It can please you. It can confuse you. How all this is possible is in itself confusing. Because here is a man who seems do to so much with so little.
Ipoot is a Ugandan painter, based in Karamoja. He recently completed his postgraduate degree studies in art from New Castle University in the UK. He has been a very active painter for more than ten years, and also teaches in a secondary school in his home area. His work heavily reflects surrealism- a 1920’s art movement that thrived on emotive, often strange imagery believed to come from the artist’s unconscious.
Surrealist painting can sometimes be intricate-usually showing entwined figures with elongated features that stretch out of proportions. However, it also is very intriguing, often lending new dimensions to forms, and defying formal artististic techniques. And so is Ipoot‘s work which is currently showing at Afri Art gallery in Kamwokya in a solo art exhibition there.
Ipoot paints about people and community life in his own Karimojong society.
His work is rendered within a cultural context, critically looking at how the culturally informed ways of his community have been encroached upon by modern materialism and Western liberalism. His work speaks about old family traditions of marriage, courtship and sexual maturation; and how through the heavy influence of materialism, all these have somewhat changed the way that traditions are playing out.
Marriage in Ipoot’s artistic opinion is no longer a destiny; it is a “fate.” It is not enough to have bride price; money is very important also. In this most colourful show, Ipoot shows that even though much has changed, all is not lost. The symbols of materials culture that held Karimojong society and indeed many other Ugandan societies together still exist.
The cow for instance plays an important role in the symbolic depiction of cultural essence of life and livelihood in the Karimojong culture. Ipoot continues to use sexual innuendo in his work, albeit in a more subtle, perhaps sophisticated way- to celebrate the beauty and the daily concerns of the women in his society. His huge oil on canvass images command an arresting presence that will draw you closer as you figure out what he says. His blues are lovely, his reds intense and the yellows and orange hues calming.
“Ipoot is a powerful painter,” one young lady remarked. “His symbolism is engaging and his subject quite relevant to many of us.” I can’t agree with her more. There is pleasure, pain, purity, and pun. There is never a dull moment in this artist’s collection. You need to go and look at it.