Artist Spotlight: Lilian Mary Nabulime

June 24, 2022
Portrait of the artist.
Portrait of the artist.

For UNSETTLED, Duende Art Projects is happy to present eight artworks by the Ugandan sculptor Lilian Mary Nabulime. All proceeds are split between the artist and the Njabala Foundation. Founded by Martha Kazungu, this foundation based in Kampala, Uganda, creates safe spaces for female artists to blossom and thrive. The Njabala Foundation strives to promote works of art, publications and content, facilitating visibility for women artists in Uganda - a mission that Duende Art Projects gladly supports.


The work of the sculptor Lilian Nabulime (b. 1963, Uganda) wants to raise public awareness of infectious diseases. Over the past two decades, her practice focused on creating sculptures with the intention of addressing and sensitizing people about HIV/AIDS, an epidemic that has cost and disrupted too many lives in Sub Saharan Africa. When Uganda’s government set a series of inconsiderate policies to its citizens in the name of combating the virus spread during the recent pandemic, Nabulime voiced her concerns through a new body of work “Keeping Safe From COVID-19”. She created a group of terracotta figurines adorned in masks that symbolize the ability to protect oneself from the pandemic. The notion of wearing masks to keep safe from the disease incited a variety of emotions.



Keeping safe from Covid-19, 2020


Nabulime was interested in how the act of wearing a mask documents the behaviour of people living in the urban areas of Kampala, including the interactions between individuals and law enforcement. The artist observed how the mask became a disguise that changed people’s relations to one another. Masks made it more difficult to identify and greet those we pass as they conceal our identity.



In addition to experimenting with the visual elements of the mask through their shape and texture, Nabulime also played with hues of blue to add more depth to the terracotta figures. The bright patina draws the viewer’s eye to the sculptural forms and enhances their beauty. These works were first shown to the public in Norway in 2020 during the exhibition “My mother is forgetting my face”, curated by Martha Kazungu. In this show several artists addressed the injustices that nations (‘the mother’ on a metaphorical level in the show’s title) render to their citizens (‘the face’). The terracotta figures remind viewers to wear a mask for their own safety and the health of those around them. Their collective display evokes the many unsettling emotions that masks may elicit, including confusion, frustration, sadness, and anxiety.



Installation view, Unsettled (2022). Please note the artworks come with a free custom-made wall mount.


Dr. Lilian M. Nabulime, is a Senior Lecturer and former Head of the Sculpture Department in the School of Industrial and Fine Arts (CEDAT) at Makerere University in Kampala. She was taught by one of Uganda’s greatest sculptors, Francis Nnaggenda. Nabulime earned a Ph.D. in Fine Art from Newcastle University in 2007. Her research focused on sculptural forms as a tool of communication for women living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda. Through her work, Nabulime attempts to push the meaning of art beyond its visual quality to raise awareness about issues facing society and promote discussion among viewers. Nabulime has been awarded numerous fellowships throughout her career and has exhibited in both solo and group shows around the world. Her most recent commission by SOAS University of London seeks to raise awareness about the risks and responses to schistosomiasis in Uganda and other communities in the Great Lakes Region.



Keeping safe from Covid-19, 2020


Please note that because these little heads look so good in group, a discount can be given when you acquire several. As a reminder, all proceeds go to the Njabala Foundation, so you are helping to build the necessary infrastructure for female Ugandan artists to blossom.

About the author

Bruno Claessens

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