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Darlyne Komukama // art and human connection

In a conversation with Ugandan photographer Darlyne Komukama, she explained her belief that the human condition is about being connected. This is a thread that she carries through in how she produces her work, from working with her friends and other artists, to ensuring that work is accessible on the internet and in other public domains. Working with other people also allows her to see the possibilities available when trying to stretch her own practice.

Expressing to me that she enjoys sci-fi inspired images and strange visuals, Komukama was excited about being part of the ColabNowNow programme put together by British Council Connect ZA at this year’s Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival.

Komukama finds it quite difficult to put into words how to describe her practice. She explains that she often assumes that everyone else is an intersectional feminist, but has found that it is important for her to directly state that she identifies as one. This comes across in the photographs she produces. Photographing Ugandan women as powerful, timeless, statuesque goddesses is how she translates her intersectional feminist grounding into visual messages. “And people always ask me, ‘Did you shoot this in Uganda? Are these Ugandans?’ And I’m like ‘Yes!’ I shot this in my neighbourhood. I shot them with my friends. And my friend is the one who made the clothes. And the other did the makeup,” Komukama says with a giggle. Expressing that being a black woman living in this world comes with such heaviness, her work is a direct response to the trauma, stereotypes and forms of oppression that women of colour have to deal with. Women of colour are still diverse, full beings, and this is what she captures with her photography.

When asked about the photography scene in Uganda, Komukama explained that there is a vibrant scene. Some of it is amateur, and some of it is professional. “I have been on the internet in Uganda for a really long time and there has always been this conversation about how we do not see ourselves, and how important it is for us to fill the space with ourselves, so we can find ourselves. I also like how there are a lot of photographers who engage with the bodies of black women. Maybe that just comes from the work that I looks for. There is a small art scene but a lot of people know each other and the scene is growing,  and it is beautiful to be there in this time.”

Komukama has a number of accounts on various platforms scattered across the internet with images she has been taken, but  she also finds it important to share photographs with Ugandan women so she tries to get her work into the public domain. This is evident in an installation about black women’s hair she did with two other Ugandan women titled The Salooni. They built a local Ugandan hair salon, and made the inside their vision of a future salon. “A place that is compassionate and has no judgment, and is joyful, and gives out dope hairstyles,” Komukama explains. The Salooni was erected at a number of street art festivals including Chale Wote in Accra. “We got so many women who lived in the area who came to the salon and just owned it. They started doing people’s hair, got their hair done, brought their kids. It was so exciting”

A second installation she produced with another friend involved building a box in Kampala which contained images pasted on the walls with a video camera in the middle. They left questions inside the box which people passing by could answer on camera. The result was a video which comprised of all the stories people had shared and gave a reflection of everyday life in Kampala.

Komukama’s work does not always result in an output that people can see but there is always an element of human connection and connection to the earth.

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