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Art: Mutebi makes wood cool

Three months since the general elections, and Uganda is still experiencing a hangover.

But although fine-artist Fred Mutebi has followed political events keenly, he has not let them distract him from his unique philosophy of making art from wood cuttings.
Mutebi’s work is a breath of fresh air that offers a new outlook to art. In this style, Mutebi gets a wooden board, and using a small chisel, he scoops out pieces of wood, as he makes figures in the process.

If he wants to make a figurine of a person, he uses the chisel to scoop out pieces of wood, leaving depressions on the wooden board that represents various objects like human-beings, birds and trees. Mutebi then pours a range of paint shades onto the shapes on the wooden board.

He places a soft board that has a paper-like texture onto the wooden board, which he presses against the chiseled painted board. In a few minutes, he gently pulls off the softer board, which carries a real painting. In essence, the wooden cutting works like a negative from a camera film that can be used to print as many photographs as needed.

The final pieces of Mutebi’s works look so good after a very difficult process. “Cutting those shapes is so time consuming,” Mutebi says. But he quickly adds, “Nothing is easy in life these days.” Nevertheless, Mutebi is determined to go on with this style of art because it is not common.

During his exhibition that started at Afriart gallery in Bukoto on May 6, against every final piece that hangs on the wall, Mutebi placed the wooden cutting from which it was formed. This was to help art patrons appreciate the process.

Unsurprisingly, most guests were awed by the quality of Mutebi’s work. Many art pieces were bought even in the first two days of the exhibition. However, there was more to the Mutebi work than just its beauty that compelled people to spend $450 on one framed art piece.

Mutebi’s art work told different stories about the political situation in Uganda, during and after the election period. He highlights different stories on how the 2010 World Cup impacted on Africa and also issues on the environment.


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