Greetings from the Netherlands

Dear UCU community. Greetings from GroningenNetherlands, where I went with two fresh graduates: Irene Piloya and Martha Namutosi, for an exhibition which serves as part of the collaborative project between Uganda Christian University Art and Design Unit and the Art Academy-Minerva, (Hanze University of Applied Science).

We arrived on October 22, at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. It was a very cold night with temperatures at about 80 Celsius.

Wytze Hoogslag, one of the Dutch students, picked us from the airport and took us to our individual hosts for the night, before we set off by road the following day to Groningen City, which is over two hours’ drive from Amsterdam.

The hosts are very kind and generous, and the student community is very social. Groningen is very much a bicycle city, with about 75 percent of inner city travel being aided by bicycles.

The Netherlands is a very wealthy country. This is seen in the clean and neatly built housing facilities, parks and well planned roads. The cars, bicycles, motorbikes and scooters all have specially designed lanes in which to move.

This reduces overcrowding on the main highways. Also the number of accidents that could arise from all means sharing the same lanes, as is the case in Uganda, is minimised.

Minerva Art Academy The Art Academy is housed in two buildings, one for undergraduates and another for graduate students. The undergraduate section of the academy is filled with robust activities throughout the day.

It has well-equipped art studios to foster students’ artistic practice and experimentation, and there are resourceful art professionals handy for studio instruction.

Students are provided with up-to-date artistic tools and media through an on-site art shop in which to buy tools for class work and private practice.

This section deals with art education, and it houses art and design students. The Frank Mohr Institute facilitates graduate students through their studio work and continuous presentations for their master’s theses and art practice.

This section of the institute houses students who are in the process of completing their graduate studies in either painting or media art design and technology.

The partnership of UCU and this institute serves as an opportunity for faculty and graduate students to develop. The exhibition The exhibition begun on October 24, through to November 9.

It was structured under the theme “Parallel Portraits — Elderliness”. It contained works of students and teaching staff from UCU and the Art Academy in Minerva.

There was a discussion on how we understand portraiture in the context of our community and experience as artists. Andrea Stultiens said of the dialogue: “In the past eight months, students and lecturers from UCU and Minerva Art Academy have been thinking about the positions of elderly in their respective communities.

They have done this through the production of portraits of elderly individuals, using different media. “In addition to the topic of elderliness, ideas about visualization, uses of media in portraiture were also explored.

And overlaps and difference between the curricula of the two different art educational institutes became apparent within topics of discussions.”

Eria Nsubuga, who is pursuing his PhD at Stamford University, Andrea Stultiens, Herman van Hoogdalem and I are the instructors who have been guiding these discussions on either side of the institutions, and as part of the arrangement, had to be active participants in the production of the final outcomes of the subject under discussion.

This was to foster open student/staff discussions on common subject themes and hopefully change the academic notion of the teacher being a demagogue on all subjects.

One very amazing part of this project was how we used Facebook as a platform through which learning, correspondence, and contentsharing took place.

This shows that the social media platforms should be strategically used for learning, for academic and artistic exchange, and not be limited to chatting.

From this exhibition, I noted that the Art and Design Unit at UCU has the challenge of encouraging students’ artistic practice with frequent exhibitions arising from socioartistic discussions.

This will help our art students become relevant in their art practice and enable them develop the ability to be part of interdisciplinary discussions and presentations.

Student studio time should result in exhibitions and socio-art discussions and vice-versa.

NATHAN OMIEL Teaching Staff, Bachelor of Industrial and Fine Art, UCU

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