When stuck in the notorious traffic jams of Kampala, you may see slogans and phrases painted on vehicles and motorcycles.
This kind of vehicle art, common in many cities in Africa, has been captured by Ugandan artist and photographer Canon Griffin Rumanzi in his exhibition titled Your Heart Ho! Letters From the Shuttle. Letters to the Metropolis.
The project, which Rumanzi has been pursuing since 2012, was launched on February 1, at the Goethe Zentrum Kampala/Uganda German Cultural Society (UGCS) Building in Kampala. The exhibition will run up to March 1.
Rumanzi takes pictures of the phrases and slogans and puts them on display. His exhibition informs, delights, and disturbs.
“These short phrases or one word hammer-downs, slogans, sentences, bible verses and cryptic ones too, are formed from diverse cultural backgrounds that lie close to the maker’s desire to speak to everybody on the road, like you and I,” Rumanzi says.
As to why he decided on the title Your Heart Ho, Rumanzi said:
“The words on the taxi or car or boda boda or T-shirt are trying to hook you into the story or ideology of whoever had them inscribed there. The taxi is asking you to go to Kawempe Maganjo Kagoma, but the words are asking to go to your heart.”
Some of the slogans on cars, matatus, lorries and boda bodas are: The Rich Also Cry, Chase Me If You Can, 100% Bad Newz, I Have To Win, Keep It Burning, Love Each Other, and Realism Empowered.
Why do you think these slogans are written on vehicles and boda bodas in Uganda, I ask.
“People want to express themselves, to assert their identity and beliefs, to reach out, to educate. Some are sending pleas to call out to God.
In the transport industry, there are good and bad people. Some are showing off their powerful affiliates, and some are reminding you that nothing is what it seems.
Lots of these messages work on a subliminal level; people notice them but are not consciously aware they are being primed to accept reality in a certain way. It also gives people hope,” Rumanzi says.
Rumanzi has held a number of exhibitions in Uganda, The Netherlands and Belgium. He also cofounded the History in Progress Uganda platform, with Andrea Stultiens, a Dutch artist, curator and documentalist.