Martin Kharumwa

Uganda - Photography & Digital

Martin Kharumwa


Martin Kharumwa

  • AGE : 38
  • COUNTRY of residence : Uganda
  • CITY : Kampala
  • ARTISTIC DISCIPLINE : Photographer, Digital Artist
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The artist

A few words about your artistic journey

I’m driven by my curiosity and photography was the first medium that resonated with me and that curiosity led me to freelance photography where I’ve been afforded the privilege to have access to and be part of a legacy of storytellers and image makers on the continent.

How long have you been an artist ?

I’ve been an artist for 10 years, though it’s hard to say where life and art start and finish, I think the digital revolution afforded me the tools to develop new mediums.

Why did you apply for this grant ? How will the grant support you ?

When the pandemic prompted lockdowns I was working with artists on KLAART festival, which was inevitably postponed, and wanted to create but with minimal contact. The grant offered the opportunity to facilitate the research and execution of a project that allows me to work remotely and develop a new skill.

What are your concrete artistic objectives after this residency ?

My primary objective is developing an accessible creative commons collection of revised and remixed illustrations that are inspired by African archives. I’m also excited about developing digital animation skills.

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His residency

What did you achieve during this creative residency ? What is the result (created work) ? Who was involved in the creation process ?

I took up learning digital illustration during the lockdown to develop a new skill. I worked from home on a series of images from archives that stood out to me from my research that I wanted to use as a drive to learn this new skill. Since being awarded the grant, I continued to research into African historic archives and journals. I initially wanted to retrace the past images with a contemporary reference, but my access to digital archives like the Uganda Journal and Sudan Notes took my research further.

The first artwork depicts a lady in Amasunzu who is sitting with a traditional zither, the reference image for the zither is from the Cambridge university digital archive of East African ornaments, her hair style is worn in a traditional format amasunzu referenced in historical images from the Kivu lake.

The other was created thanks to my research on the history of Uganda, which led me to a story about Military slaves from Sudan that served in Mexico in 1863-186. The image references the military uniform and I used one of my archive images of a young sudanese man J. Chol Thon, who I Photographed at a roadside pool table a few years back.

There is a strong correlation between what I was finding out in my research with the information Iwas processing from contemporary references of the time.

How do you think these activities contribute to a reflection on today’s world, in relation to the COVID-19 crisis, and/or on the shaping of the future ?

Talking about the future is hard. I would like to imagine that African nation states take on the task of reimagining education and access to information. Making the project creative commons protects me from possibly license infringements for referencing the work, even though I’m referencing information that is centuries old, I can’t help but feel concerned that sharing parts of it in my work will have some backlash.

How did you feel during the residency ? And at the end of it ?

The residency boosted my focus and I learned some useful tactics on motivation. I initially wanted to focus on more cultural artefacts and references like the amasunzu hairstyle, but my work and focus changed drastically as the news of police brutality around the world demanded our attention. I overcame it by losing myself in the research and the routine of examining the past to make sense of the present. I feel like I was fortunate to have the time to develop a new skill.