(b. 1985, Kampala, Uganda; lives and works in Harlem, New York)
Namaganda owe Mbogo (Among the Beautiful Girls from the Buffalo Clan), 2020. Wood, wax, nails, screws, wire, plastic and found objects. Courtesy of the artist, Gordon Robichaux, NY and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London
I am an artist-activist living in New York City, where I was recently granted asylum after fleeing persecution in my native Uganda. This new series of masks talks back to homophobia. Combining figurative and abstract elements, and employing a wide range of found objects, the masks portray queer archetypes that I’ve named after contemporary princes, princesses and clans within the kingdom of Buganda’s royal family. Here, knotted plastic bags are woven through discarded tubing and shredded to resemble hair.
Leilah Babirye is a participant in Art on the Grid, a citywide, open-air exhibition presented by Public Art Fund. Conceived in the spring of 2020, the exhibition features 50 artists’ reflections on the converging crises of the coronavirus pandemic and systemic racism in our country.