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Ugandan artist inspired to preserve culture through art after China tour

Xinhua| Updated: February 19, 2024 L M S


[Photo/WeChat account: caa87200059]

Bruno Ruganzu, a Ugandan artist dedicated to preserving the culture of the East African nation, described his 10-day tour of creation, work exhibition and cultural exchange in China's Zhejiang Province as having an indelible memory.

Bruno Ruganzu, a Ugandan artist dedicated to preserving the culture of the East African nation, described his 10-day tour of creation, work exhibition and cultural exchange in China's eastern Zhejiang Province as having an indelible memory.

It was Ruganzu's first visit to China. During the trip in December, he and other artists from diverse cultural backgrounds visited historical and cultural sites in Hangzhou, Shaoxing and Huzhou in Zhejiang. They experienced the vitality of contemporary China and exhibited their creations at the "Silk Road Artists' Rendezvous" exhibition.

Back home in the central Ugandan district of Wakiso, Ruganzu seeks to implement the lessons learned. In his work studio, constructed mainly with recycled wine bottles, Ruganzu reflected on his childhood when people in his village made handicrafts from natural materials like banana fiber, clay pots and rattan baskets. These traditional practices are now being replaced by modernity.

"These people learnt all this art from their ancestors, just like I also learnt from those around me. So whatever I do, my aim is to connect culture with art so that a new life can be born," he said.

Picking up lessons from China, Ruganzu believes that culture and modernity can coexist. He expressed amazement at the importance the Chinese people place on their culture, citing the preservation of calligraphy as an ancient art form.

"It was an incredible experience for me. We were at the center of civilization. Believe me, it is a magical space to stop at and see the civilization and how it is being kept, documented, highlighted, and how relevant the Chinese culture is being protected and preserved," Ruganzu said.

He said although calligraphy is an ancient form of Chinese art, it is still being preserved and cherished very well by the Chinese people up to today.

"So for me as a Ugandan artist, I was so blown away by how important the Chinese people see their culture. We, as a country, have so many places that we should protect and preserve for future generations," he added.

Ruganzu aims to use his painting and sculpture skills to connect art with culture and tradition. He sees his art as a connection to his ancestors and roots, guided by the spirit of Ubuntu, which means "I am because we are."

His journey as an artist was inspired by a high school teacher and fueled by talent and commitment. After graduating with a degree in art and industrial design in 2011, Ruganzu continued to pursue his passion, eventually earning a Master's degree and becoming a lecturer.

Ruganzu's dedication to preserving culture through art was evident during his tour of China. He noted that the Chinese people also respect nature and seek harmonious coexistence with it, a principle he believes should be a common pursuit for humanity.

During the exhibition in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province, Ruganzu introduced his works to Chinese audience, emphasizing that the materials used in his artwork were mainly from trees, highlighting their natural origin.

Looking ahead, Ruganzu is determined to pass on his skills and knowledge to future generations.

Reflecting on his journey from a young artist inspired by his teacher to becoming a respected figure in the art world, Ruganzu's story is one of talent, commitment, and a deep-rooted passion for preserving culture through art.

"My art is not specifically about me. It is a connection to my ancestors, roots. It is not enough when it is not with others," he added.

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