Lessons for humans from humble,social carpenter ants

Saturday November 11 2023

Nakaweesa Rebecca Angellah’s painting “Oluganda Kulya” shows carpenter ants eating fresh fruits. PHOTO | BAMUTURAKI MUSINGUZI | NMG


Carpenter ants, like human beings, live in organised societies, practising group integration and division of labour - the queen plays the function of reproduction; the workers collect food for the entire colony and construct and repair the nest; while the soldiers defend the colony against predators.

These are the inspiration behind Rebecca Angellah Nakaweesa’s debut solo exhibition titled “The curious world of humans” in which she attempts to interrogate the clash between African values and those introduced by colonialists.

“My lesson from these carpenter ants is that no matter the changing environment, the way they lived and what they used to do, is what they do today and tomorrow as well,” she says.

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The 29 paintings in the collection are divided into four parts, with each section capturing the different stages in her research and production of artworks.

The artist displays creative mastery of the subject, using acrylic paint and mixed media on canvas.


The paintings cover diverse topics such as beauty, economy and coexistence.

The painting “The cultural parade,” for example, depicts a colony of carpenter ants in portraying the decency and relationship between communities in the society while “The African beauty” has jewellery used by women to create natural beauty.

“The bait” portrays the fishing activities in the African society.

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“Olukiiko” (meeting in Luganda) is about people getting together to communicate, discuss issues, and find solutions.

“This is not the case today where people meet but the attention of some is taken up by their smart phones,” Nakaweesa says.

The curious world of humans” is a fitting title for the exhibition for she was “excited to know about a small world of living things (carpenter ants) that have similar characteristics like those of human beings.”

Nakaweesa is a semi-realistic contemporary artist whose work focusses on painting.