A show of art on boda boda

L-R: Art pieces named Ettofaali, Take me home and carry animals on boda bodas. photo by Abubaker Lubowa

What you need to know:

Exhibitionists use boda bodas to showcase their art to different audiences within Kampala

If you visited the Kampala Railway station last weekend and early this week, you would mistake the place for a boda boda stage except for one thing, these boda bodas are not carrying passengers but art pieces.
As part of the KLA ART 014, a contemporary art festival running throughout this month, the boda bodas have been transformed into moving galleries of sorts, infiltrating the city in an effort to bring art closer to communities.
The 20 selected artists created artworks in, on or with a boda boda; one of the most iconic elements of life in Kampala. This year’s edition of the biannual festival, whose main highlights are an exhibition at the Uganda Railway Station and the Boda boda project, is running under the theme ‘Unmapped: aimed at reaching the unheard voices in our society’.

The festival website breaks this down as “From the bicycle knife-sharpeners to the express fashion designers, from the mobile nail salons to the boda boda riders; who are the unheard, unplanned and unmapped artisan traders of our cities and how do their unique micro economies shape the cities in which we live?”
On why the choice of boda boda, Josh Agaba, one of the coordinators, says “boda bodas relate to everybody irrespective of their class. It’s easier to install and get appreciation on boda bodas than other means of transport like buses or taxis.”
Launched everyday from the festival exhibition at the Uganda Railway station, the boda boda project rides to selected locations allowing artists tour the city and engage the general public in discussions of art, listen to their views and appreciation of the arts industry.
There are 28 locations spread as per the days until October 31. As they ride through the city, the boda bodas arouse the curiosity of passersby that when they stop, crowds gather to make sense of the unique motorbikes.

Works that speak
“Creative, innovative and educative in a way they deliver hidden messages of people (Boda boda riders) that don’t get their say out there in the public,” is how Agaba describes the works. Indeed Richard Wasike’s piece portrays this. A man on a boda boda dressed in a reflector jacket, helmet on the head, gloves in the hands a perfect picture of how riders should be well equipped with all necessary gears for their lives safety.
Arnest Gabriel’s creativity came to life in his piece about fruit selling on a boda boda. The back of the motorbike is transformed into a huge pineapple was made of paper and filter, a show of the visibility and nobility of Kampala streets. Kino Musoke’s piece which shows a boda boda with many side mirrors was worth credit as it expresses that riders should look different sides while riding. Sandra Suubi Nakitto and Enock Kagga Kalule’s oversized helmet constructed of plastic bottles and recycled materials cannot be missed. It portrays second chances.

At the festival exhibition at Kampala Railway station are works that portray the interpretation of the theme by selected visual artists, both local and regional runs from Monday to Saturday from 10am - 6pm. Entrance is free for all.
Francis Nnaggenda’s piece Vendor on Scaffold stood out for me. In it he shows women’s efforts in construction when they have to care for their children and provide food.
The taxi is also brought to life through Dennis Muraguri’s piece that portrays it as both a means of transport and juicy gossip.
The forgotten, rejected and overlooked are presented in Helen Nabukenya’s piece on which she uses discarded fabric to create vast tapestries.
This is but a snippet of the incredible works on show. You can go and take a look personally before the festival’s ends on October 31.