Art that speaks sexuality

Moses Izabiriza displays his painting of three women discovering their bodies. Standing with him is Violet Nantume. Courtesy photos

“Matters that relate to sex and sexuality are always coached in too much secrecy, breeding a lot of redundant myths that need to be objectively dispelled,” says Violet Nantume, curator of the Eroticism and Intimacy, Faces, Places & Paths exhibition which ran at Nakumatt Oasis Basement recently.
The collection of 30 art works from 20 artists in five countries deliberated a topic that Africa is not comfortable discussing publicly.

The experience moved beyond “who owns the body?” to the abhorred discussion of same sex relations, masturbation, and relative to the International Women’s day celebrations, how are women afraid of talking freely about what pleases them; vis-à-vis what ought to please their husbands, should embrace freedom.

Various alternatives to pleasure, making choices for which individuals are comfortable to express themselves regardless of social pressure and effect of sexual exposure to children generated part of the pedagogical study.
Nantume, Peter Genza and Moses Serubiri argued that many young people have grown up in a time with such an explosion of erotic material, without considering its long term effect in shaping their own sexuality and ways they view the opposite sex.
It is sheer commercialisation, relative to the pornography, which has no bearing on how real people should live.

A monochrome portrait of a woman’s behind laid upon a man with his legs wide spread, two men sharing a bed with hands over each other’s back, three beautifully colourful body revealing images of models including Lolah Adhama in a crawling position very close to Nicki Minaj’s ‘Anaconda’ pose, were among the striking ones. They each came marked with numbers, perhaps without titles to leave room for interpretation.

There was an expression of orgasmic pleasure. The curvy breasts of a woman with her nipples stiffened from desire and dotted pallates of sweat. This piece by Kenyan artist, Clavers Odhiambo, is a marvel which questions intensity a body would reach from pleasure.
Moses Izabiriza (Rwanda) has three women discovering what parts of their body bring them pleasure. They touch each other, one angles her body in a seduction, yielding thoughts of self-discovery/pleasure.

Dance has for centuries been studied as one of the world’s most expressive forms of emotions. 16, a black woman in her ballerina dress, raises her right hand to the back of her white male dance partner’s neck, reflecting intimacy.

DR Congo’s Agnes Swana contrasts two nude women, one kneeling as though in submission - another standing in freedom.

Something wrong explores vile sexual experiences that would translate into rape, sexual practices like genital mutilation.

This sordid goth display of a distorted figure of a woman with legs forced apart by one hand on her left thigh and another on her right foot, as she bleeds from between, has a crossed large circle drawn at the centre of her privates.
A skull with a ghostly hand stands behind her, looking away, itself disgusted by the grotesque image.

Sexuality battles
Uganda’s Sheila Nakitende explores battles of a man; over his sexuality or self-love. The grey scale body painting of a man against golden canvass is contrasted with a black shadow behind him.

His right hand is held back by the shadow in battle (fighting) motion, while his left lays calmly over the shadow’s right hand which in turn is in a smooth caress of his cheek. “He wants to do it but he is afraid,” a one Bobi said as he closely viewed the painting.

This resounded the curators’ thoughts that many youths “also engage in erotic behaviour but can’t talk about it freely. The freedom to speak without fear of being reprimanded” is a self-defeating battle forcing individuals into remorseful sexual behaviour.

Nakitende’s painting is two piece; another reflects two women in sexual intimacy.

They have a cross, one is at the lower back and another’s where the navel and left nipple ought to be. Beyond sexuality, one could reflect upon traditional customs and the crosses as a sort of defiance against religious restrictions from sexual freedom.