Uganda: Batik Master Marks 40 Years

Renowned Ugandan multimedia visual artist Nuwa Wamala Nnyanzi is marking an art career spanning four decades with an exhibition titled Celebrating Forty Years of Brush Strokes (1978-2018) at the Nommo Gallery in Kampala. Nnyanzi is best known for his batik paintings.

The exhibition, which opened on October 16 and runs till October 28, features a retrospective collection of his 182 art works in various media: Batik, dyes on paper, acrylics on canvas, woodcuts, oil on bark cloth, water colour on paper, serigraph and pencil on paper, documenting Uganda’s cultural, social, economic and political life.

Describing his 40-year-old journey, Nnyanzi said; “It has been a long journey full of opportunities and challenges, which I have enjoyed and endured respectively.

“The journey has taken me around Africa, Europe, North America and Asia. It has also opened doors for friendships and acquaintances as well as collaborations.”

But despite his travels and fame abroad, Nnyanzi chose to hold this milestone exhibition in Uganda.

“Generally speaking, the public’s reaction has been positive. Many viewers and collectors of my work identify with it and to many it has served as a mirror in which they see themselves. To others, it has served as a window through which they have observed other people.”

Nnyanzi says he takes pride in the fact that in the 40 years of his career, his work has been used by organisations such as the World Health Organisation and Unicef and private corporates to reach out to people, effect behaviour change and convey important messages.

His art has also been used in psychosocial therapy, and corporate branding as well as in fundraising events by major organisations.

The current exhibition in Kampala is intended to create awareness of the plight of disadvantaged children and a percentage of the proceeds will go to the Rotary Club of Kampala West for a project that impacts children directly.

Bruno Sserunkuuma, a senior lecturer and head of the Ceramics Department at the Margaret Trowel School of Industrial and Fine Art, Makerere University, says that Nnyanzi’s work opens up many possibilities with its strong bright colours and stylised figures.

Nnyanzi simply describes it as an expression of his feelings in using a universal language devoid of bias.

Most of his work is done in batik because he says it is the medium that gained him fame and a livelihood. He attributes most of his artistic, economic and social successes to his batik pieces.

Sserunkuuma concurs. “One can only draw from the accumulated history of the art works form and hope, making Nnyanzi fresh and personal.”

Although Nnyanzi has specialised in batik art, he also works in water, acrylic and oil colours on paper and canvas as well as graphic designing and silk screen printing. His paintings address everyday life, family, culture, hard work, heritage, love, celebration and wildlife.

Nnyanzi is happy that more younger Ugandans are collecting art and have shown interest in it as a profession or investment opportunity.


Born on October 28, 1952 in Uganda, Nnyanzi is a self-taught artist. His father was a labaratory assistant and his mother a teacher.

He is the founder, owner, and chief executive officer of the Nnyanzi Art Studio in Kampala, set up in 1996.

Nnyanzi started painting in 1978 while in exile in Nairobi, Kenya. With no formal training in fine art, but full of determination to be self-reliant, while walking the streets of Nairobi one day, he bumped into his childhood friend, Dan Sekanwagi, a visual artist, now based in Houston, Texas.

With Sekanwagi’s encouragement and mentorship, the two young men used their artistic talents to make a living.

By 1980, Nnyanzi had mastered his art and held a groundbreaking solo batik art exhibition at the Goethe Institut in Nairobi.

Nnyanzi has since held many solo and group exhibitions, and slide/talk presentations around the world.

He returned to Uganda from exile in 1992. In 1996 he hosted US secretary of commerce Rice Brown, and former US president Jimmy Carter and his wife Roselyn at his studio.

From 1992 to 2002, he served as first, state minister of internal affairs and then arts and social welfare, in the Buganda Kingdom.

He has served in the cultural sector in various capacities, including chairing the Uganda Artists’ Association; as director on the Uganda Tourism Board and a member of the Culture Committee of the Uganda National Commission for Unesco, as well as acting chair of Arterial Network Uganda Chapter.

He is the chairperson of the select committee on the Uganda National Cultural Centre Act review process. He is also the vice chairperson of the National Arts and Cultural Crafts Association of Uganda.

His is a member of the Rotary Club of Kampala West.


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Publish date : 2018-10-29 15:14:33

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