Faces and phases of African life in art

Monday July 03 2023

“Faces” by Mukasa Geoffrey. PHOTO | BAMUTURAKI MUSINGUZI | NMG


Paintings, wood cuts, ceramics, bronze sculptures, and ebony carvings from as far as Cameroon and Mali had pride of place at the Klaus Holderbaum Art Collection Exhibition held at the Xenson Art Space in Kampala from June 17 – 24.

These and wooden masks, wooden stools, beaded baskets and beaded stools, lithographs, and screen prints make up a private art collection that the late ambassador Klaus Holderbaum collected from the countries he was posted to, including Cameroon, Mali and Uganda.

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Bbira Peter Edward’s 199 painting, Stop Corruption, depicts a selfish corrupt politician seated on the top of a ladder fixed to a coconut tree eating from a basketful of coconuts while the public watches from the ground for any falling crumbs.

The people stretch out their hands, others with baskets to carry any crumbs back home.

Each step of the ladder is labelled “votes,” indicating that the politician got his way into office by bribing the voters, who now also want to share the public resources he is enjoying.


Mukasa Geoffrey’s undated paper collage titled Faces shows two large human faces with three big eyes, two ears, purple and red lipstick.

Klaus’s black-and-white portrait, Holderbaum 2005, made of graphite on paper is by N. Wav.

Arnold Birungi has water colour artworks Childhood 1999 and Face of Uganda 1999. Childhood shows a girl and a boy, with the girl placing her left hand on her head and her right on the hip. The boy has his right hand on the girl’s shoulder and his left hand holding a lit cigarette.

Klaus was a lawyer, academic and diplomat. He was born on November 14, 1938, in Berlin.

He served in the Germany diplomatic service for 33 years, 22 of them in Sub-Saharan Africa. His last posting was in Uganda from July 1999 to June 2003, when he retired and decided to live in Uganda.

Thereafter, he worked as a consultant, adviser and served in various boards, including the ministries of Tourism, Trade and Industries, United Assurance, Gauff Engineers, Nnabagereka Development Foundation, QNet Ltd, Duke of Edinburgh Award (U) and Save the Street Children Uganda.

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A former senior presidential adviser on tourism and investment in the Office of the President, he died at Mulago National Referral Hospital on May 16, 2023.

According to Xenson Art Space, during his work and stay in Uganda, Klaus contributed immensely to the growth of the arts and culture by supporting Ugandan artists and arts programmes.

He was a representation of a historical friendship between German and Uganda, given his role as the senior presidential adviser on trade and tourism.