Samra Mayanja: The Living and the Stale at The Tetley

Maja Lorkowska, Exhibitions Editor
Samra Mayanja: The Living and the Stale at The Tetley
Image courtesy of Leeds Inspired.

Samra Mayanja: The Living and the Stale at The Tetley, 10 February — 4 June 2023 Entrance is free — Visit now

The Tetley presents Samra Mayanja’s first institutional exhibition, displaying a brand new body of work by an artist with poetics at the centre of her processes.

The Living and the Stale is described as exploring the idea of ‘lostness’, through a novella, installations, drawings, video and a score. The artist focuses on secretary-scribe Ham Mukasa (c.1870–1956), who in 1902 wrote a text entitled Uganda’s Katikiro in England. In it, he documented the journey of Buganda’s Katikkiro (Prime Minister) Apolo Kagwa to England and it was one of the first travel diaries that we know of written by an African person coming to Europe.

The show gathers the artist’s own poetry and images captured while travelling around Uganda, where she searched for bark cloth, Ham Mukasa’s archive and, on a more personal note, explored her father’s history. The Living and the Stale spans multiple galleries where viewers will be guided as if inside a scattered, ‘dispersed film’.

Mayanja’s previous projects drew on the Ugandan dance traditions and the Ugandan film industry, as well as the artist’s background in economics and an interest in the concepts of wealth and disparity. She plays with words in a way that a ceramicist does with soft clay, with meanings fixing themselves in the process of reading.

The artist’s interest in Ham Mukasa stems from her own poetic inclinations and her fascination with the poetic language and imagery used in the text. She focuses on Mukasa’s ability to poetically describe things he had never seen and the way in which the text hovers between poetic diary entries, mistranslation and pure observation, archiving his travels.

Samra Mayanja: The Living and the Stale at The Tetley, 10 February — 4 June 2023 Entrance is free Visit now

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