Banadda’s Marriage of Philosophy and Aesthetics
He takes no less than four months to conceive and develop an idea in his head, a process he refers to as mental sketching. It takes him a minimum of another four weeks to actualize the idea on canvas to his satisfaction.
Meet Godfrey Banadda, a second-generation modern artist that has led a distinguished career in painting, exploring a diversity of themes that essentially question the mysteries of nature and culture.
Written by Nathan Kiwere
His fascination with natural phenomena has engendered a quest for deeper meaning of things and consequently offer some answers in form of a language he understands best—painting. However, his philosophical mindset that is not accustomed to perceiving things skin-deep has enabled him to render subject matter using a medley of poetic brushstrokes in a rather ingenious colour pageant.
His works, recent and past, attest to the devotion to a cryptic vision of the world and his personal interpretation of the same with a prickly affinity to the surreal.
One of Banadda’s older but remarkable works on social commentary is called Hypocrite. In this piece, the artist cautions that whenever you have someone you consider your best friend, it is important to ask oneself whether that so-called best friend regards you the same way. Many people have been deeply hurt because they unsuspectingly gave their unreserved commitment to their friends, only to be paid back in a different currency.
The work shows a man with his face metamorphosed into three different faces and countenances and colours, wearing a sarcastic smile with teeth reminiscent of snake fangs. This ‘multi-facedness’ delineates the duplicity latent in human nature; the darkness inherent in man’s heart. It is characteristic of people who profess one thing and act out quite another, even to those people who consider them to be their friends.
Banadda chooses his colours with tact, using red to signify the danger in associating with such people, whose pretense exudes fire that can burn erstwhile good relations or even led to the destruction of another party.
The dark part in one of the faces is suggestive of the sinister motives and the cover of darkness under which such acts of malevolence are committed. There is a false assurance that darkness usually gives to people who plan ominous deeds. They lurk in the shadows as they wait to pounce on their prey. It is evocative of the unknown intentions of people who feign intimacy, but yet harboring different intentions.
Reflections of Nature
Another of Banadda’s works which borders on the controversial with a tinge of lewdness is Reflections of Nature. Once again we are treated to the artist’s dexterity in the masterful portrayal of a multiplicity of occurrences in a single frame.
In his interpretation, genuine human nature is often an elusive, silent and hidden phenomenon which sometimes can only manifest after exposure to a seductive incentive. Some of the incentives are drinks, food, exposure to the opposite sex, male or female, driven by erotic emotions and intentions, riches or poverty.
Most people find it hard to hide their true nature and behavioral colours when given or deprived of the things mentioned above. These act as litmus to the mode of upbringing and parenting of a particular individual. While on parties, wedding ceremonies, social gatherings, organisational meetings or simply two lovers meeting for their first date at a restaurant, it will only be the well-parented and scrupulously nurtured to practice patience, self-restraint and willingness to share with others.
It is even worse if the situation is aggravated with hunger and delayed services or not enough of the necessities to be supplied.
Banadda goes on to postulate that when a man is exposed to the presence of an attractive woman, with many the inner horny and erotic animal will always leak to the surface of his face and follow into his gestures towards this woman. Unless a man has a practiced talent for visual restraint, his eyes may not escape the radar-like gaze of a spying observer as his eyes stealthily follow the gait of the beautiful woman passing by.
It is only a few individuals who can manage to control their drives of sexual emotions when exposed to a magnetic opposite sex, that the secrecy of their potential erotic manifestations will be guarded or hidden. With many, physical affection, change of voice tone, nervousness, altered breathing rate and fast heart beats, slight or heavy sweating, uncoordinated sentence syntax, blushing and other physical and psychological occurrences will inevitably accrue from the exposure and proximity of these mature sexually different individuals that are erotically attracted to each other.
Towards the worst degree, with many individuals, the sense of reason, mature judgment of issues and perfect decision-making is lost. In the engulfing darkness of the sexual mist, many people become oblivious to the presence of AIDS and HIV; unnecessary expenditure, starving family, unpaid bills and school fees, unfinished personal projects left hanging for months or years, to mention but a few.
Serpent of Eden
One of Banadda’s latest works is Serpent of Eden, a painting inspired by the events in the Bible book of Genesis. Like many people, Banadda has questioned the meaning of this episode that illustrates the man’s initial act of disobedience and how it led to his eventual downfall. In this chapter, God commands Adam and Eve to eat of every tree in Eden but not to touch “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, the one that stood in the middle of the garden, lest they would die.
Banadda likens this directive to a father who commands his children never to touch a secretive box hidden in a locked room in the house. The temptation to find out the truth in the box, especially in the case of the tree of Eden, can be so compelling for anyone to resist and will thus do anything to gain access to the mystery behind the object. In which case, the serpent in the Bible manipulates the circumstances and tempts Eve into the trap of eating the fruit and sharing the same with her partner, Adam.
Banadda summarizes the enter drama into a single mystery creature that is half-woman, half-snake and laden with other equally bizarre parts. The hair is replaced with a tree that has an assortment of fruits, representing the diverse ideas that people have about the forbidden fruit. Whereas most people believe it must have been an apple, a multitude of others still think it could actually have been something else.
The rose in the creature’s hand represents the sweet-smelling rose that also has thorns that have capacity to harm. Many other features about this work could potentially produce material that can fill up an entire book.
About the artist
Godfrey Banadda has mastered the art of rendering in abstract in the entire sense of the word. His agility with the brush, punctuated with his philosophical and aesthetic sensibilities, allows him to freely swing his subject in anything from mild to semi and extreme abstraction with such obscene ease.
This comes as little surprise to the people who interact with him closely. His verbal expressions during a casual conversation are so rich in poetry that one wonders why he never simply became a writer.
Perhaps his years lecturing painting and art appreciation at the Makerere Art School have honed his artistic abilities to what he should be.
Nathan Kiwere is the President of the Uganda Visual Artists and Designers Association.