Anja’s office has a story to tell, told through the human face by renowned sculptor and art lecturer Lilian Nabulime.
It is one thing to have one or two paintings dangling down your office wall. Turning your workplace into a thriving art exhibition space- quite another.
Anja Nina Kramer, the director of KfW Development Bank’s Kampala branch recently turned her office into an art exhibition space.
Several months later, this has not only changed the interior of her workplace, it has also boosted a number of artists whose work has graced the walls, floors and corridors of this lady’s office. In a concept she calls Art in open office, Anja fills out most of her office space with works of art from a selected artist.
The selected artists’ work is displayed all over the office for a period of six months. For that period, the artist is granted an opportunity to have their work seen and potentially purchased by many of KfW’s high profile clients. It definitely widens the artist’s client network and lends a soothing face to the often serious and structured office environment. Most importantly, this arrangement affords the office an unusual opportunity to tell a story.
Currently, Anja’s office has a story to tell. It is a story of emotions, partly told through the human face by renowned sculptor and Makerere University art lecturer Lilian Nabulime. In a series of wood and clay sculptures, Nabulime explores human expression through her work.
The face in Nabulime’s plays an important symbolic role in this office setting, helping to mirror the different emotions that characterize our work day in the office.
“We all go through different emotions during our time at work, she says.
“One moment we are happy and smiling; another moment we are sad and frowning; sometimes we are stressed and tired.”
Because these sculptures are planted in every visible office space, they are difficult to ignore- becoming a constant reminder of our own struggles and triumphs at work.
Her wood sculptures are bigger in size and more pronounced- depicting long winding faces with exaggerated features: warped, over size, often gaping lips and protruding eyes with haunting gazes. The clay pieces are miniature, their features understated but still powerfully endowed with tiny curious dots and a smooth texture.
The female figure enjoys pride of place in her work on exhibition and as is typical of Nabulime’s rich and sometimes wild imagination- her female figures-replete with ample curves, make up and stylish are provocatively good on the eye, but also harbour critical messages in their flirty eyes and painted lips.
What is the place of a woman in our society for instance; how do we perceive ladies in our communities and how does all this inform our choices. Her wooden pieces covered with metal plates further lend another layer of detail and texture to her rich work.
Nabulime offers an unusual interpretation of beauty in this exhibition. It is the beauty of the extraordinary and sometimes outright weird. It is beauty that transcends the aesthetic attributes to something deeper- indeed, for all the weird twisted looks on her sculptures, the naïve almost childlike rendering of the wooded caricatures all speak to a far reaching, probing beauty.
One that you might see in the rough edges and spotted surfaces of some of her sculptures or the steel surfaces on others. Her manipulation of tree roots to produce memorable sculpture products is endearing.
Interesting take on art exhibitions
For anyone accustomed to finding art in galleries and more recently on the street, the idea of art exhibitions in office space is interesting. First, it turns art into an integral part of the office. And while it does not turn the office into a haggling center for paintings and sculptures, or a walk-in gallery for art collectors and enthusiasts, it is one creative way of showcasing quality art work while promoting some of Uganda’s finest visual artists.
“Nabulime’s work brings life to our office,” Anja Kramer said. She says that the concept of art in the office helps to bring art close to both employees of her office and clients in ways that boosts both parties.
Who is Nabulime?
- Dr. Lilian Mary Nabulime is a Senior Lecturer at the Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Arts
- She is one of few female sculptors in Uganda. She is mostly known for her bold work addressing the ways in which issues such as gender inequality and disease, particularly HIV-AIDS, affected her life and the lives of many women in Ugandan society
- Since her early years as a Masters student at the School of Industrial and Fine Arts, she has been fascinated by the forms and structures of the tree roots that she would find when moving around campus, and those forms persist in her work to date; along with other found materials such as aluminum waste, bottle caps and beer cans.
- She has held solo exhibitions and participated in group exhibitions widely in Africa, Europe and America.