On February 14, Rita Namayanja Kivumbi, a visually impaired artist, organised the blind date art exhibition at the Royal Suites in Bugolobi, Kampala. Kivumbi is the art director and founder of Magezi Arts and Exhibition Centre on Namirembe Hill. Clad in a red sequins dress with a pearl white necklace, Kivumbi walks about the exhibition space interacting with the guests. Her art pieces are breathtaking.
Every art piece has a unique theme centred on love. For example, a piece of Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II is on display because he loves all his subjects equally and he is loved by many. Preacher of love is a piece about Archbishop Ntagali’s predecessor Henry Luke Orombi and one piece that stands out, a heart in an arm which Kivumbi says was inspired by a certain song. One wonders how she paints without eye sight to which she replies: I have mastered the craft”.
Before losing her eye sight, Kivumbi was an administrator at Makerere University Art Gallery. Young and vibrant, she did not have any serious medical complications until she started experiencing a painful headache in October 2008.
“I started suffering a persistent headache but after taking medication, I would feel better,” she says.
However, the headaches became frequent and before long, she was experiencing dizziness. A month later, the dizziness was frequent, which worried Kivumbi. While at work one day, the dizziness became so serious that she fell down on the floor. This, she says, was the last time she was able to see anything.
“I was taken to different hospitals but doctors failed to identify what was wrong. Plus, all the scans carried out showed that nothing was wrong,” Kivumbi narrates while recalling standing in front of the mirror several times and not being able to see herself.
She adds that she lost touch with some friends and family members, especially those that could not come to terms with the fact that she had lost her sight. Kivumbi says her support comes mostly from her husband and three children aged 15, nine and six years old.
Kivumbi admits that for a while after losing her sight she was inconsolable. However, after the pity party, she came to terms with her current state and decided that she could not hold onto the tears but needed to get up and do something.
“During this time, students would still come to me for training and they were inspired. This also inspired me to get back to the studio and make art,” she says with a smile.
She currently teaches about 150 blind people in Iganga.
Due to the limited appreciation towards visual arts and art works in Uganda, Kivumbi decided to join a business network that she says contributes towards promoting her work to different people and organisations.
Kivumbi supplies materials to at least 15 visually impaired people who she has empowered to create something and also be able to fend for themselves. She also promotes their work by inviting them for art exhibitions where they can display their work.
She calls upon those in the same situation to know that disability is not inability. She also calls upon those who can offer assistance in any way to support her so that she too can support others.
Kivumbi received an award from President Yoweri Museveni on Women’s Day in 2016 as recognition of her role in empowering women and youth.
Buganda Kingdom also awarded her daughter, Kirabo, a scholarship.
She has been able to grow her social network and ably take care of her children.
Born on May 1, 1980, Rita Namayanja Kivumbi attended Uganda Martyrs SS, Namugongo before joining Uganda Martyrs High School Rubaga. She graduated in 2002 from Makerere University with a Bachelor’s in Development Studies.
She also enrolled for a Master’s Degree in Ethics and Public management. She founded Magezi Arts and Exhibition Centre on Namirembe Hill in 2008, before losing her eye sight.
She is a mother of three; two girls and a boy although she is always working with her first born daughter, Amazing Grace Kirabo.