Group Exhibition
20 May 2023–1 May 2024

Leilah Babirye features in 'Living Art'

Sainsbury Art Centre, Norwich, England

Leilah Babirye's 'Nankumbinkalu from the Kuchu Embwa (Dog) Clan' features in 'Living Art' at the Sainsbury Centre. Made with wood, wax, wire, copper, glue, bicycle tyre inner tubes and found objects, the sculpture forms part of the artist’s ongoing project imagining and creating a community of queer Ugandans. 

Expanding on the Bugandan clan system, Babirye employs the term “kuchu”—a “secret word” in the Luganda language that those in the queer and trans community use to address each other—and playfully envisages an alternate queer and trans history unified in its support and protection of its people.

‘Nankumbinkalu from the Kuchu Embwa (Dog) Clan’ is crowned with an ornate headdress fashioned from wire, copper and thickly woven braids of rubber inner tubes. This work demonstrates how the artist frequently uses traditional African masks to explore the diversity of LGBTQI identities. Babirye’s choice to use discarded materials in her work is intentional – the pejorative term for a gay person in the Luganda language is ‘ebisiyaga’, meaning sugarcane husk. “It’s rubbish,” she explains, “the part of the sugarcane you throw out.”

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