I AM BECAUSE YOU ARE

illustrations of existence

by The.Wamala / Tailor Winston

Presented by Nexus Arts and Sanaa Festival, with Principal Partner Lipman Karas

I AM BECAUSE

YOU ARE

illustrations of existence

by The.Wamala / Tailor Winston

Presented by Nexus Arts and Sanaa Festival, with Principal Partner Lipman Karas

About the Exhibition

Introduction

In February 2020, six artists from across Africa visited Adelaide to take part in the Sanaa Festival, participating in a fourteen-day program that included the creation of five collaborative street art murals, artist-led workshops in Adelaide and regional centres, exhibitions and talks, reaching audiences of more than 4,000.

As part of this bold festival, and conceived in partnership with Principal Partner Lipman Karas, Nexus Arts was excited to welcome Ugandan visual artist Wamala Kyeyune Joseph (The.Wamala) to our studio space for the inaugural Sanaa Artist Exchange residency.

We met Wamala in mid-February in the midst of Adelaide’s vibrant Festival season. He was energised by the challenge of preparing new work for an exhibition in a tight, 7-week turnaround period. Wamala was also enthusiastic to meet other Adelaide-based creatives, to engage in meaningful exchange, to share their experiences in life and art.

To this end, Nexus was delighted to support the involvement of multidisciplinary emerging artist Tailor Winston to work with Wamala. Our vision was to support them to develop a joint exhibition, featuring new works from Wamala alongside artwork and performance art from Tailor. Tailor’s work explores human experiences from the perspective of a biracial woman, sparked by her Australian, African American and Italian heritage. Merging visual art and performance narrated through spoken word, she uses these platforms as tools to open conversations exploring unity, spiritual identity and environmentalism.

Wamala and Tailor shared their personal and artistic experiences with one another, spending time in conversationin the Nexus studio. They produced work together, with Tailor making plaster casts of Wamala’s hands to contribute to her new work. Together, they crafted an exhibition focused on existence, humanity, connectivity, and respect.

Towards the end of his residency, Nexus was also pleased to introduce Wamala to a local Indigenous artist. Wamala had commenced work on a piece based on a photographic portrait of an Indigenous Australian child, and was hoping to engage an Indigenous artist to collaborate on the work. This new exchange was in its early stages, and we were beginning to install the exhibition ready for an opening on 26 March 2020.

Then, things changed.

Interruption

The unfathomable disruption of COVID-19 on the arts industry has been well documented. Nexus closed our Gallery, Venue, and offices on 17 March for the foreseeable future. With dawning disappointment, it became clear that a physical presentation of Wamala and Tailor’s exhibition was no longer able to take place. The artistic and organisational team quickly made the decision to pivot to online delivery, responding just as hundreds of other artists and arts organisations have been forced to do.

What happened next was illuminating for us all.

Interrogation

In discussing the concepts behind her exhibition works, Tailor Winston noted themes of resilience and interconnectedness. Wamala, in his artist statement, describes an experience of realising, while in Adelaide, the profundity of the “beauty to be found within the struggle”. These explorations, already underway, immediately gained new significance once the barriers to physical connectedness imposed by social distancing restrictions were put into place.

Wamala flew back to Uganda on 20 March, arriving just 10 hours before the country closed its borders. On the day that he left, Nexus captured video of the two exhibition artists working together to bring the works to life, right down to the wire. Hurried goodbyes were said, bags hastily packed, as borders closed behind landing aircraft.

Moving to a virtual exhibition is a new challenge, and of course we will miss the celebration of opening night, but our team of artists and arts workers are energised by the possibilities of accessibility opened up by this new mode of delivery. Not only can Wamala’s community in Kampala, Uganda, now view the work, but the joint exhibition will now be accessible to all Australians from any (technologically-enhanced) vantage point. Who knew that isolation could make the world more accessible?

And so, what began as a project designed to bring together two artists, placing them against the backdrop of Adelaide to provoke collaboration and connection, has evolved into a project connecting these artists with their communities far more broadly. Audiences, which would have been local, have become global. Aspects of the exhibition concept – resilience, humanity, and sacrifice – have been highlighted in uniquely timely and relevant ways. The resilience of artists to pivot, adapt, and survive, is brought to the fore.

Nexus Arts works to connect artists to audiences, and to share the intercultural stories of our nation and beyond. Through COVID-19 and its imposed isolation, through the partnerships we have developed and strengthened with our colleagues at the Sanaa Festival, through this innovative artistic collaboration, we understand – now more than ever before – the real importance of connection.

Explore the Exhibition Below

Click on a work to see it up close, and to get more details.

About the Artists


The.Wamala

Artist Biography

Wamala Kyeyune Joseph was born and raised in Mutundwe, Rubaga division of Kampala, Uganda. He is the second of six children. After primary education taught by his mother, and a challenging period at secondary school, he attended Michelangelo College of Arts to pursue a Diploma in Art (2012-13) and then Kyambogo University in pursuit of a Bachelor Degree in Industrial Art and Design (2016-17).

"My interest in art was recognized when I was pre-primary school, and so my mother bought me an art textbook for me to teach myself how to really draw. I didn’t see any other book besides this for months. I remember drawing every single detail from within."

"My compositions have always rotated around expressions in portraiture. For me, they speak a lot, and I doubt if we could understand human nature and emotion without first being able to read a face. Inspiration comes to me from my neighborhood and city, which have always moved me in many ways, but also from further afield. I occasionally work with words or other concepts, but portraits of humanity are my primary focus."

He specializes in painting and sculpture, and with these majors Wamala has worked on a number of projects, exhibitions, residencies, and commissions, across Africa and Australia.

Artist statement by Wamala, completed in Uganda on the day the exhibition was due to open at Nexus

Completed in Uganda on the day the exhibition was due to open at Nexus

“I am a student of life, and have been noting life experiences and lessons through my art from a young age. This is another volume of work, inspired by my stay in Adelaide.

A multicultural destination, mankind of all colours gave me retrospective pictures of my motherland Uganda: its way of life in all perspectives, but more deeply its social and cultural sides. From these introspective moments with myself in Adelaide, my appreciation for the beauty to be found within the struggle has become profound (thank you Adelaide).

Thus the birth of these works of art. Two paintings, ‘The Guardian’ and ‘Relatives Across’, draw on themes of connectivity through distance. The first speaks to love and sacrifice, from my hometown of Kampala. The second is about a struggling mother from Haiti, and how despite being far from the African continent the relationship between her and Africa is undeniable. I am because we are.

I concern myself with the grey area: that hued portion of humanity that portrays good and evil in one work of art. I am a product of my environment, and so it’s only right to record our stories in my own way as an artist. Drawing inspiration from my surroundings gives me insight on life and emotions, which characterizes most of my works. I paint, I sculpt and I draw. But I mostly paint. It’s a satisfying medium of art as it helps me narrate my story quite vividly.”

Tailor Winston

Artist Biography

Tailor Winston is an interdisciplinary, emerging South Australian artist currently undertaking her BVA at the Adelaide Central School of Art. Growing up Australian with an African-American and Italian heritage, she explores the experiences of the human condition from the perspective of a biracial woman. Merging visual and performance art, often accompanied with spoken word, she seeks to use these platforms as a tool to open and invite conversations exploring unity, spiritual identity, and environmentalism. Her work invites the audience to journey and experience the expressions of language in all forms as a medium to promote empathy and commonality, and to explore nature and interconnectedness through our own personal stories.

Artist Statement by Tailor Winston

In this exhibition Tailor Winston in collaboration and conversation with The.Wamala explores the nature of the human condition in relationship to the natural world. Inspired by philosophical post humanism theory, her work integrates the use of collage, performance, and organic materials to illustrate the interconnectedness and continuous metamorphosis that is reflected between within the self, community, and the natural world.

Process and Intention

Transformation. Adaption. Refraction. Metamorphosis. Community. Nature. Sexuality. Fractals. Micro and Macro. Connection. Collaboration. Sustainability. Post Humanism Philosophy. Environmental Feminism. Life/Death/Life Cycles. Environmentalism.

My process is not only that of itself but more so a philosophical perspective where everything co exists much like an eco-system; made of many necessary parts, each fraction feeds into and inspires the other. It is a continuous collaborative exploration with nature and my surroundings. Research, inspiration and initial concepts take place in a variety of ways, from appearing in dreams, conversations and discussions, to deriving from books and theories. How the works are constructed and finalised principally depends on the materials and resources that are available at that particular time and place, so I would describe it to be a quite opportunistic, imaginative, and resourceful process that relies upon appropriation and adaption.

There is ongoing documentation as to where materials are sourced. This is a particularly important part of the process as it respectfully thanks and gives reference to all contributing collaborators, regardless of size, shape, and form, in an attempt to show the more complex and subtle forms of collaboration that occur in daily practice and everyday life. We are in fact in constant, ongoing, and developing collaboration with ourselves, nature, our immediate and distant surroundings, as it invokes the law of cause-and-effect and post humanism theory.

Collaborators and Contributors

Earth.
Eric Harris. Andre Lawrence. Victoria Lewis. Imee Luz. Daniel Havey. The.Wamala. Anika Havey. Luba Vdovina.
National Geographic Magazine.
The Rose, David Austin, 2009.
Makeup, Makeovers, Robert Jones, 2005.
Womankind, 2017.


@The.Wamala

@tailorwinston


Acknowledgements


Nexus Arts acknowledges Kaurna people as the owners of the land where we live, learn, and work. We respect their culture and elders and acknowledge their sovereignty was never ceded. We recognise that visual arts, music and storytelling have been central to Aboriginal cultures for over 60,000 years. We work to support this lineage.

The Sanaa Artist Exchange, presented in partnership with Sanaa and financially supported by Sanaa’s Principal Partner Lipman Karas, was part of the wider 'Sanaa : A better world through creativity' multi-arts festival platform.

Wamala was selected for the seven-week artist residency by a panel including representatives from Nexus Arts, Lipman Karas, and Sanaa, and with special input from Lisa Slade, Assistant Director, Artistic Programs, Art Gallery of South Australia. There were over just over 70 applications received from artists across Africa, which was reduced to a top four and then awarded to Wamala.

Nexus Arts thanks our staff for their enthusiastic and dedicated work in moving this exhibition to digital delivery at short notice, especially Aaron Schuppan and Andre Lawrence. Huge thanks to Luku at Kuku Digital for the brilliant web design and his wonderfully collaborative ethic. We also sincerely thank the Government of South Australian through the Department of Premier and Cabinet for their ongoing support of Nexus.

Most importantly, we thank you for visiting this website and supporting intercultural arts in Australia.