Dr Lilian Mary Nabulime says her creative parents influenced her choice of career. “My parents were creative in their daily lives as homemakers. They built every house we lived in, did the interior, exterior and landscaping. My mother had studied Home Science.
“My siblings and I learnt our first practical artistic skills at home and were taken to schools that offered art as an examinable subject. My father always bought extra art materials for us to practice at home,” she said.
As a student at Christ the King Senior Secondary School in Kalisizo district during Uganda’s unstable years in the late 1970s and early 80s, her ambition was to be a secondary school teacher or a nurse.
Then everything changed when the Tanzanian liberation forces entered Uganda to depose Idi Amin. With the ensuing civil unrest, her family sought refuge at the Makerere College School in Kampala.
Across the fence was the Makerere University School of Fine Art, and it was here that Nabulime first saw Fine Art students with their drawing boards. She decided then that she wanted to be an artist.
Although best known for her sculptures, she also paints and is currently working on a combination of wood and sheet metal to make sculptures and carving stuff from tree stumps.
Nabulime says that exploring and appropriating materials as sources of artistic inspiration into sculptural forms offers a wealth of ideas.
Nabulime is currently a senior lecturer at the School of Industrial and Fine Arts of Makerere University. She holds a BA Fine Arts (1987), a Post Graduate Diploma in Education (1989), and Master of Arts Fine Arts (1993), all from Makerere University; and a Fine Art PhD (Newcastle University, UK, 2007).
Her PhD research was in developing sculptures for HIV/Aids awareness titled, The role of sculptural forms as a communication tool in relation to the lives and experiences of women with HIV/Aids in Uganda.
“It exposed me to various materials that are symbolic, translating disease into sculptures that can communicate to both literates and non-literates and also overcome language barriers,” she said.
She has exhibited her work at solo and group exhibitions worldwide. She has won several awards and has published and presented a number of papers for international journals and audience. She is also a published author.
Dr Nabulime spoke to The EastAfrican correspondent Bamuturaki Musinguzi on her off-duty passion.
What’s your off-duty passion?
I love watching soaps and talking with my friends. However, I recently decided to stop watching soaps because I realised they take years to conclude and that means socialising less.
What signifies your personal style?
I prefer short hair. I love simple, colourful comfortable blouses, skirts and jeans and my shoes are flat and comfortable.
How do you manage your wardrobe?
I do my shopping when I get an opportunity to travel abroad. Since I do not lose or gain much weight, I can wear some pieces for a long time.
What would you have been if you were not an artist and a lecturer today?
Most probably a secondary school teacher or a nurse.
How do you unwind after a day’s work?
By watching TV. I love watching watching soaps on Bukedde TV as I cook. But I also watch news on the BBC and local channels.
While in East Africa, where are you most likely to spend your Saturday afternoon?
Somewhere with a water mass or beautiful garden. I enjoy the relaxing feeling of watching water masses or being surrounded by a beautiful garden.
Describe your best destination yet in East Africa?
The Ndali Lodge and the crater lakes around it in Fort Portal town in western Uganda. The lodge is on a hill surrounded by the crater lakes below and it is quite an adventurous walk down to the lakes. It is soothing to just watch the clear waters.
Do you have a must-visit list?
As an artist, I would like to visit Italy, France, New Zealand, Asia and the Bahamas for the galleries, museums, artistic natural scenes.
Which is East Africa’s greatest strength?
Its hospitable and friendly people, and the amazing wildlife and flora.
What is your best collection?
Art books and my sculptures.
What’s the most thoughtful gift you have received?
My PhD scholarship that gave me knowledge and understanding of the impact of HIV/Aids infection in vulnerable women.
Art is a powerful weapon in communicating and educating on HIV/Aids, protection and treatment. This gave me the ability to develop sculptures for HIV/Aids awareness for both literate and illiterate women from different communities in Uganda.
I also understood that you cannot end HIV/Aids without involving men. The PhD studies opened doors for me and my family and I have shared the knowledge and experience worldwide through books, journals, online stories and presentations.
After I opened up that I was affected by HIV/Aids, I received a lot of support from Uganda and abroad. This has given me strength and empathy to support those in need.
What is the best gift you have given?
Forgiveness. During a trying moment in my life when my late husband was diagnosed with HIV/Aids. I received grace from God to accept and walk with him in his illness without tormenting myself that he could have infected me.
Two years before his death, I told him that I wanted us to formalise our marriage in the Catholic Church and he accepted. The joy and happiness on his face when we tied the knot was very rewarding. It was the happiest moment in our lives.
What big book you have read recently?
Emmanuel Cardinal Nsubuga Is Still With Us by Monsignor Charles Kimbowa. Cardinal Nsubuga is my hero because of his humility. He was loved by both the rich and the poor and one of his greatest contributions was building the house of the poor at Nalukolongo in Kampala.
He was loving and generous and did not care for money or power. My late father had given all his property to the church, but when he died, Cardinal Nsubuga told us we were the church, and he handed back to our family all our father’s property.
Which film has impacted you the most?
The Sound of Music. It fascinates me because of Maria’s patience, humility and love. Marriages and families are trying but prayer and patience breaks hard spirits.
What’s your favourite music?
Pop and rhythm and blues.
What is a constant in your fridge?
Yogurt and blended fruit juices.