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40 Under 40 Africa

Teesa Bahana

28 September 2020

Director, 32° East | Ugandan Arts Trust, Kampala

In 2016, Teesa Bahana became director of the 32° East | Ugandan Arts Trust – a non-profit initiative supported by grants from international funding bodies, among them the Prince Claus Fund and the Sigrid Rausing Trust. Since then, she has cemented its reputation as the most innovative non-profit organisation working to promote contemporary art in Uganda. Bahana has spearheaded the development of KLA ART Labs, a nine-month research and development programme for artists and curators, in which the question of how to expand public awareness of the city’s art scene is centre stage. She oversaw the third edition of the KLA ART festival in 2018, which complements the Kampala Art Biennale by providing exposure for artists from marginalised communities in Uganda; ‘Off the Record’, as it was titled, included a series of murals made with inhabitants of the Katanga slums of the city.

Bahana’s most significant coup, however, was announced in June this year. The trust is moving into a permanent home in the neighbourhood of Kabalagala – a fast-growing commercial hub in the south of Kampala, renowned for its nightlife – and after a three-year fundraising project will break ground next March on what will be the first purpose-built arts centre in Uganda (fundraising for the second phase of construction is ongoing). The building will include a suite of artists’ studios, a library, and exhibition spaces, enabling the trust – among other activity – to continue its programme of artist residencies. Previous resident artists include Trevor Aloka, whose hyperrealist paintings and drawings explore stereotypical views of men from Langi communities in the north of the country.

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