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SIMPLYG FOLK - BIRUNGI KAWOOYA

In the second instalment of our series SIMPLYG Folk we're pleased to introduce you to artist Birungi Kawooya.

We first met Birungi a few years back, the specifics of how are a bit of a blur but we were immediately enamoured by her striking and rich cut out art. So much so we did a little exhibition of them at the salon.

We've quietly watched from afar as her work evolves and she garners more admirers for her pieces and we hope she finds some more in you.


Introducing SIMPLYG Folk - Birungi


Where do you consider home and where did you grow up?


BK - Apart from a couple years in Uganda as a toddler, I have lived in South-East London all my life. I would like to be able to call Uganda home. This lockdown has made me realise I need to spend some months there and feel like I am settled.


We first met you about 4 years ago now, when we sold some of your art at the salon. Tell us a bit about your journey as an artist.


BK - You hosted my first solo art exhibition! Having a chance to share my Afro-portraits of Oprah, Jay-ann, Tri from Curlture and John Boyega meant the world to me! My journey as an artist is surprising. I’ve come to realise that it’s as important for me to help others make art though my Mindful African Collage workshops, as it is for me to make art to honour Black womxn. I’ve met so any more incredible people along the way, especially Black womxn artists and curators who help me to create space to nurture people’s wellbeing with my art and classes.


Why have you chosen this specific medium and what inspires you?


BK - One day, I felt creative and I realised I had a craft knife, card and African print fabric at home so I started to collage. Collage is a made up artform so it’s perfectly accessible way to create and I paint with African prints!

I am inspired always by Black womxn. At first, I wanted to showcase our beauty and uniquely African features like my East African forehead, my sister’s full lips and our dark skin. As I grew in confidence, I chose to celebrate African diasporic dance styles and figures because I am in awe of our ingenuity. Lately, I am inspired to represent Black womxn in rest to help remind me to take care of my wellbeing and nurture my dreams and ambitions. I am also inspired by the participants in my workshops, they always surprise themselves as collage in new and interesting ways!


What is your favourite piece that you have created?


BK - “Birungi needs sleep” (working title). It is part of the “Sisters Need Sleep” series which encourages me to prioritise self-care now and help me to contribute to a more loving future.


How do you get into the zone/mood to create?


BK - Having a set amount of time can motivate me to get into the zone, as I have a full-time job so juggling life and my art is a challenge. Being moderately depressed and highly anxious motivates me to imagine new artworks and create an alternative world to inhabit.


Coachella and RHOA repeats also help me get into the zone, too!


In your journey so far, what has been your favourite moment?


BK - One of favourite moments was being at “Creative Conversations: Black Women Artists Making & Doing Symposium” hosted by Prof. Lubaina Himid. I didn’t study art, so I felt so fortunate to experience being at an art school perfectly curated for Black womxn. My other favourite moments have been helping people to create Afro Self-Portraits online and in-person with Black Mind, Sheffield Maternity Cooperative and Peckham Platform. I love to see how proud the participants are of their artworks and I hope it raises their self-esteem.


Whose work do you admire and who would you like to collaborate with in some form?


BK - I admire Yayoi Kusama and like her, I want to have art installations in nature. I want to collaborate with dancers across the African diaspora and poet Warsan Shire to make immersive dance art theatre experience in a dreamy tropical setting. Thanks for helping me to dream out loud Deborah, I’ll see you at the launch!


And finally, we’re always on the hunt for new tunes to add to our salon playlist. What song would you recommend?


BK - For Andre, by Tank and the Bangas. It’s an ode to Andre 3000 and it’s so funny!


THANK YOU BIRUNGI

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