Introduction to Kampala Art Biennale 2018

In preparing the 3rd edition of the Kampala Biennale, it became evident that a new format was needed for this artistic rendez-vous

KAB was founded in 2014 by a small group of artists and art activists without any help from the government or international institutions. The founders believed in the potential of the Ugandan art scene and wanted to build bridges between the international art scene and local audiences. The first edition had no budget at all and materialized thanks to the solidarity of artists and curators who strongly wished to be part of it. The second edition was directed by the curator Elise Atangana who worked on the theme of Mobilities. She invited a selection of international artists to a residency in Kampala, as well as put out an open call to African artists to exhibit.
Our question for the 3rd edition was: “How can we build KAB’s sustainability and interest our government in the future to support Art through the Biennale?” This led to a series of discussions with several art professionals including independent curator, Simon Njami, who proposed the presence of contemporary art masters in Kampala and the transmission of knowledge; this naturally made him the Librettist of KAB18.

KAB18 will be a story of transmission from one generation of artists to the next. Unlike the common format of major biennales which historically show and promote the best of their time, as a platform where professionals and the market can come and choose the next big artist, KAB18 is choosing a format vehicles our continent’s original values of sharing and transferring knowledge. Thus, 2018 will take on a master / apprentice format to allow for the transmission of artistic skill from international contemporary art masters to young Ugandan, East African and African artists. This is especially crucial as it evokes the traditional African transfer of knowledge from the experienced to the future generation.

Art is an important contributor to social cohesion and nation-building through the promotion of intercultural dialogue, understanding and collaboration. Art also aims to entertain, to delight, to challenge, to give meaning, to interpret, to raise awareness, and to stimulate. These non-market values, though difficult to measure in monetary terms, are just as important as the instrumental values.

There is a need to invest in this cultural capital exchange otherwise it will depreciate and be devalued over time. Public and private sponsorship and support of the arts is particularly important for those producers whose main focus is intrinsic value. While recognising and supporting the very important role that the cultural and creative industries play in the economy, we would encourage you not to lose sight of the unique intrinsic values that they generate. This includes the reflection and shaping of national and individual identities.