Femininity can be used to mean the physical and intellectual beauty of a woman. This is what the exhibition “Bits of Femininity … .a woman’s worth” showing now at Afriart is about.
Carolyne Adongo the artist behind these displays of ceramics and pottery is a young woman with a vivacious mentality about changing the way the woman is represented in society. Her ambition is to reverse that negative image of a woman as a sexual object and beast of burden as often portrayed in the local press and on canvas by many contemporary artists.
“The woman has been abused by the media. You see many pornographic images of women in the newspapers and Television Screen. As a woman I feel this is not right and has to change,” she says.
To champion this cause, the artist uses her genre of sculpture to pass her message to the public. Her ceramics explore the woman’s form; her bosom, bust, kinky hair, a radiant smile, coupled with an unmatched elegance.
Elegance here seems to be an important quality of a woman. This can be observed by the symbolic use of long necks for her women; a woman with a defined long neck will always stand out as beautiful and elegant in many African communities; but also the long neck can be used to mean her being visionary.
The other important aspect of her work is the texture design she decorates on each of these objects. The decorations vary from the type of motifs she uses here and there, perhaps as a symbol of different moods and themes she’s conveying to her audience. As a result, each of these pottery or ceramics has a personality; an element that invokes the attention of the viewer.
This bond the artist creates between her work and audience is what makes her an interesting artist with an expansive imaginative and creative faculty. She seeks to create dialogue between herself, sculptures and audience by identifying the subject matter her audience is familiar with- in this context: femininity.
She molds objects out of clay that remind us of who we are and those we know; but most importantly her work is rooted in the local community and can be equally understood by the expatriate, art student and average business man who comes to the gallery .
The issue of local relevance is more the reason why Margaret Trowel set up the school of Fine Arts in Makerere where Carolynne graduated. It is worthwhile to see that she has continued with this legacy almost after 75 years of this institution’s birth.
But this young woman’s aspirations cannot only be limited to the celebration of a woman’s physical form or academics. It spills into the political sphere of our society by imploring the government to fully support the woman especially in rural areas.
It is obvious that the rural woman has been left behind in the crusade against marital abuse, rape, poverty, illiteracy, and female genital cutting.
While the urban woman enjoys quality education and high leadership opportunities, the rural woman is resigned to taking care of a home and sometimes giving birth with no proper medical care.
In the context of this exhibition, the artist seems to advocate for an equal celebration of women’s rights whatever their social status and location. This can be identified by the way she adorns her women with a smile, which in this case, appears to be a symbol of her hope for a better tomorrow.
While the artist discusses such pertinent issues in her work, she does not come off as a populist. Her work has no political or social overtones to make it unpalatable to her audience. Nevertheless, its simplicity and creativity makes it adorable for everyone.
The exhibition will go on for until July 6 at Afriart Gallery, Kamwokya.