In March 2020, as everyone around him was running around stocking up on food and other essentials as the pandemic was announced, Ugandan visual artist Alex Kwizera, 35, was calling colleagues and suppliers, seeking art materials he could stock for use since no one knew how long the virus would be around.
Kwizera was then working on his exhibition dubbed Consciousness, exploring man and nature, and how they co-exist in the same universe. He dug deep into his imagination to rethink the universe’s past, focusing on ‘’food and medicine,’’ now crafted by modernity, little knowing that a pandemic was upon us.
“It was a sign from the almighty, and it gave me justification for why I was working on the exhibition,” he said. The exhibition was cancelled in 2020 and the art space at Kiwatule in Nakawa division of Kampala was closed until February 2021.
“We had to resort to totally new ways of conducting our business which was a worthwhile experience,” he adds.
Kwizera is now working on a second part of Consciousness.
To creatives like Kwizera who stayed woke, the pandemic lockdown was an ‘"opportunity in a crisis" which pushed artists deeper into their creating minds. Several grants were rolled out to facilitate them and Kwizera received one from Kuonyesha Art Fund, a Ugandan initiative aimed at the promotion and support of artists. He was also commissioned as an illustrator for African Proverbs on Generosity, a book on African stories and the culture of giving, which was published.
The artist says the lockdowns pushed them to digitalisation and online platforms. With his website underway, he believes that “artists do not necessarily have to show up or travel to showcase their work.”
He is upbeat about “virtual platforms like e-wallets, the NFTs have proved how we can further create, and freely sell.”