Self Reflection: Benon Lutaaya
Considering the complexities embedded within the African context and African identity, the structuring of its land and the conditioning of its people are often characterized by precarious political systems, with dire social and environmental circumstances as their catalysts. However, as a multifaceted continent rich in its diverse cultural influences, the African identity is one that is tightly bound to beliefs of hope, tolerance and ongoing transition.
Uganda-born artist Benon Lutaaya physically and conceptual dismantles to reconstruct the dialogue and representation of the complex “African” experience. He channels personal introspection into the reconfiguration of boundaries or limitations. The artist has attained a BFA at Kyambogo University, Kampala, leading him to pursue art professionally in 2010.
As a result of crippling financial circumstances hindering him from acquiring art supplies, he quickly learned the skill of improvising, resorting to the use of recycled, found paper material that decorated the streets. In 2011, he was awarded an international artist residency award by the Bag Factory Studios, providing him with the opportunity to live and work in Johannesburg.
Over the course of a five-year artistic journey as a professional artist, Benon Lutaaya’s artistic practice has grown exponentially, attracting a considerable amount of attention and recognition both locally and internationally. He was awarded the Lovell Tranyr Art Trophy in 2012 and the “2015 Face of African Youth Foundation Award” from ADLER Entrepreneurship Awards”, Frankfurt, Germany. Yet, his success does not remain within the confines of his personal enjoyment. Benon Lutaaya has contributed extensively to a variety of South African children’s charities over the course of three years alone.
Benon’s subject matter is deeply rooted in the fragility of human life and the vulnerability of the human experience. He creates evocative, fragmented mixed media portraits of vulnerable children devoid of gender, enhancing their ability to be universally identified and communicated with. They convey a sense of sensitivity by shifting the gaze from object to subject literally through the eyes of the artist, as he physically renders them onto their faces.
Apart from this personal communication, his body of work may also lend itself to be observed through the political lens of Uganda, a country like many others, that has seen the extensive exploitation of children as child soldiers and sex slaves. Yet, the directions of the subjects’ gazes are often forward-looking to convey a sense of hope, opportunity and optimism.
Benon Lutaaya’s artistic process elevates rather than reinforces the status quo of suffering. He combines an acute understanding and nuanced approach to form and technique with an unrepressed emotional experience. Benon Lutaaya’s use of collage, shredding, recycling, layering and painting materialistically creates a space for diversity and inclusivity where nothing is wasted and everything has a place.
The found materials function as both tool and medium, often used as paint or glue pal ettes before being incorporatedinto the actual artwork. The uses of these techniques lend themselves to conversations that address the construction of personal and social identity, as social structures imprint and define the manner in which we engage, identify and rationalize.
Yet, through the act of manipulation and reapplication, he allows the subject matter and the viewer to reinvent themselves according to their context of choice and not be confined to a predisposed idea or concept.
It is with this sensitivity spanning across all facets of his artistic practice that he is able to subtly awaken genuine human connection and move the viewer to find and grapple with their place in the world without limitation. His artworks speak to a greater consciousness of being, which is internalized by the viewer and serves as a testament to the success of his artistic journey.
– Kirsten Arendse
In this particular exhibition, I’m re-examining my practice as an artist, the medium, techniques and concept as a whole. Over the years, I have felt I needed to master what I have been doing and it has been growing.
In my world, quality is measured by “improvement” rather than “change” for the sake of fitting into the bandwagon of the elitist, post modern art burble.
I believe in order to achieve some crazy, wild, creative thing, you have to know enough to figure out how to push the limits of what the medium can do. This exhibit marks the end and a new beginning to become of my practise.
– Benon Lutaaya