Paintings, melody fuse to celebrate Africa

Thursday March 18 2021

Multilingual Ugandan musician Sandra Namkoma perfoming at the Pamoja Art Exhibition at Dar Alliance Francaise. PHOTO | COURTESY


It was all music and visual arts at Dar es Salaam’s Alliance Française “Pamoja Art Exhibition” during the first Muziki Wetu edition this year, when the beats and melodies of Shabo Makota and Sandra Nankoma met the paintings of Jeniffer Msekwa.

First on stage was Makota, the Tanzanian afro-fusion guitarist who draws inspiration from the late Papa Wemba. Makota had the audience enthralled with contemporary jazz, putting his voice to powerful use as he sang ‘Dunia’, exalting God for all creation while reminding the audience that “this world in not ours” alone, but shared with other creatures.

A beautiful planet

In 'Dunia' (world), Shabo was trying to say God created the world of his own volition, made it beautiful, and populated it with everything (mountains, rivers, oceans, forests, valleys, flatlands, birds and animals) to surround the Earth. He said his song tries to tell the audience God put all living beings on Earth to make it beautiful and therefore, this world is not ours alone.

Multilingual Ugandan musician Nankoma wasted no time in reminding the audience of the struggles of artistes in her country.

Her first song, ‘Babylon,’ summarised the sentiment shared by many artists.


Universal language

Babylon the city is wasted

Babylon the city is on fire

Run, run, run

Because the city is on fire

Because the city is at war

Run away from the media

Run from all the vanity

“The Babylon song says everything about what an artiste living in my country is going through,” Nankoma said.

She believes music is a universal language. “The more languages you can sing in; you are able to reach a wider audience. I sing in Luganda, English, and Rugwere and plan to try out more languages in coming projects,” she added.

Ms Nankoma signed off with Kaddugala, which doubles as a rallying call to all dark-skinned women to love the tone of their skin and fight off stereotypes.

“Your skin is not a limitation; it is your identity and should be loved. Be proud of it regardless of what society says,” Nankoma said.

Msekwa, the Tanzanian visual artist, seemed to take the cue from Nankoma on the continent’s place, for in her works she chose “Great Africa” as the theme, using an African woman as a metaphor for all Africans.

Negative vibes

“Her facial expression — red eyes, sneer — imply we Africans do not agree with the negative perspective of other continents [hold] of us,” Ms Msekwa said.

“Her eyes are red and tired. She is not happy for she doesn’t like the negative perspective about Africans from other races. That is why I use gold on her earrings to show riches and power,” she added.

Msekwa said many of the images and content created about Africa depict a continent in a state of poverty and dirt. “In the picture, I show that Africans are clean and precious. I have also used leaves to show that Africans are rich in herbs,” Msekwa said.

Msekwa is not yet done. She throws in a crown in the shape of the map of the continent to show Africa that despite different shades of people, the continent remains united.

“The purpose is to oppose discrimination and negative view of the continent, which must stop; and art supports this perspective," Msekwa added.

This article was first published in The EastAfrican newspaper on February 20, 2021.