Xenson's 'Olidde Mupipa' makes debut in Nairobi

Sunday June 09 2024

“Baxigiri,” 2018 to present by Xenson. PHOTO | POOL


Ugandan conceptual and visual artist Samson Ssenkaaba aka Xenson is holding his first-ever solo exhibition in Nairobi and his first institutional exhibition in East Africa at the Nairobi Contemporary Art Institute.

The exhibition titled Olidde Mupipa, which opened on April 4 and runs up to July 13, focuses on sculpture and installation. It is featuring six newly created pieces that widen Xenson’s research of items and materials, as well as the stories they tell about the distinct cultural contexts from which they are derived.

Olidde mupipa is a Luganda idiomatic expression, "you have eaten from the barrel (dustbin)," meaning that one has arrived too late for something, and they have to make do with leftovers. The expression refers to the steel drums used for storing and transporting liquid substances.

Often these barrels are resold and repurposed for different uses, including storage for alternative substances/materials (such as rubbish), and they are also broken down to produce other functional objects such as troughs and karayi largely in informal economies.

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Xenson has repurposed steel barrels to create new works.


Similarly, the sculptures are made using the pieces of barrels as components for sculptures based on familiar, everyday objects, transformed using scale and repetition. Presented in this context, the objects bear traces of the original purpose of their component parts and gesture towards their utilitarian nature outside the exhibition space.

In doing so, Xenson invites viewers to consider their evolution as they move through local production, distribution, and consumption cycles and, ultimately, their lives as part of a more extensive network of people, objects, and relationships.

“At the end of the day, whatever I do, the nucleus is these objects and how they begin to tell the story. From Uganda, Kenya, East Africa, and then incorporating these other sensibilities of the world,” says Xenson, who is also a musician, filmmaker and poet.

Asked why he came up with the title “Olidde mupipa” for this exhibition, Xenson responded: “Olidde mupipa is a word that reflects what is going on in the world today. It has different meanings depending on your circumstances. There is so much dumping going on, and we let ourselves be victims knowingly or unknowingly.”

Xenson’s artworks on display are: “Kaxigiri” (2019); “Kamaxu” (2024); “Toninyira Mukange” (2024); “Baxigiri” (2018 - present); “Ebirerya” (2024), and “Mukeka” (2024).