Menu

Senga Nanseera (Kindhearted Kuchu Auntie) and more art by Leilah Babirye

Senga Nanseera (Kindhearted Kuchu Auntie), 2020
119.4 x 58.4 x 10 cm (h x w x d)
wood
wax
aluminium
wire
nails and found objects
[BABI 12]

‘Senga Nanseera (Kindhearted Kuchu Auntie)’ is a new wooden mask by Leilah Babirye that forms part of the artist’s ongoing project imagining and creating a community of queer Ugandans. Babirye was born and raised in Kampala, which is situated in Buganda, one of the most powerful of Uganda’s kingdoms. The Bugandan people are particularly proud of their ancestral lineage and traditions and members of its clans consider themselves as siblings, regardless of their distant birth relationship. Expanding on this 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. The auntie is a protector who brings family members together in a time of trouble. This work becomes a stand-in for what Babirye describes as the “many transgender women, whom we refer to as queens in the kuchu community, who love naming themselves after their favourite aunts, sisters, or women role models.”

Babirye’s multidisciplinary practice transforms everyday materials into objects that address issues surrounding identity, sexuality and human rights. Created from wood, wax, aluminium, wire, nails and found objects, ‘Senga Nanseera (Kindhearted Kuchu Auntie)’ is crowned with an ornate headdress fashioned from wires and aluminium cans. 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.” The cans that decorate Babirye’s works are deeply resonant for the artist: when she first arrived in New York she collected cans on the street to make ends meet, whereas now she can source them and use them in her work.

Following her participation in the Fire Island Artist Residency, New York in 2015 Babirye was granted asylum in the United States in spring 2018. Living and working in Brooklyn, she is fuelled by a desire to locate herself within her new environment and incorporate new materials and subjects into her vocabulary. Babirye will have her first solo exhibition at Stephen Friedman Gallery in 2021.



offered by:

other works by Leilah Babirye

Namaganda owe Mbogo (Among the..., 2020
111.8 x 64.7 x 15.2 cm (h x w x d)
wood
wax
Nails
screws
wire
plastic
and found objects

more from Stephen Friedman Gallery

Senga Nanseera (Kindhearted Ku..., 2020
119.4 x 58.4 x 10 cm (h x w x d)
wood
wax
aluminium
wire
nails and found objects

Poseidon, 2020
214 x 79 x 47.5 cm (h x w x d)
Unique fibreglass sculpture
hand-painted with Dutch wax Batik and bespoke hand-coloured globe

Untitled, 2020
82 x 62 x 2 cm (h x w x d)
Acrylic on Paper

Untitled, 2020
82 x 62 x 2 cm (h x w x d)
Acrylic on Paper

Untitled, 2020
82 x 62 x 2 cm (h x w x d)
Acrylic on Paper

Pages

Do you create or deal with art?

Cookies help us to provide certain features and services on our website. By using the website, you agree that we use cookies. Privacy policy