Startjournal 2018: New Media, Channels and Connections – Editorial
Editorial by Jantien Zuurbier
It has been little over a year since our new Editorial Board was established, and with that came a shift towards publishing more scholarly, peer reviewed articles, with the aim to lift the standard of StartJournal to an international competitive arts journal.
Since the re-launch in Dec 2016, Start Journal published 28 stories and 4 issues. We have seen a steady average monthly readership of 2500 to 4500 readers. However, we may conclude that – with some financial input, social media efforts and more regular publishing – we have a tremendous potential to reach a much wider audience.
Creating a financially sustainable arts journal
Funding has remained a challenge throughout the Journal’s existence since 2007, and it is with the support of volunteers and encouragement of our current employers, that we have been able to work on Start Journal on a pro-bono basis. This is not a sustainable situation. Only with a solid financial base can Startjounal have the opportunity to be a sustainable platform for creativity and expression.
This year we want to explore several avenues for making the journal financially stable, varying from grant applications, sponsorships, paid memberships, selling printed editions and introducing opportunities for advertising. By doing so, it is important to stress that we do not want to compromise on our objective to be a critical and independent arts Journal.
The importance of an independent art Journal
StartJournal strongly believes that informed citizens are crucial in a democratic society. But information is worthless if it is biased, unchecked or censored. Stimulating high-quality images of art, artists’ self-reflexive essays, art historical articles, and independent reporting by art journalists is, therefore, a key in development of a critical society.
The Journal has always aspired to be an indigenous-driven publication critically analysing and documenting contemporary arts and culture in Uganda. It would be even more valuable if the content of StartJournal is influencing the mainstream societal narratives.
New content, new channels
With this in mind we are now developing a larger communication strategy with the aim to connect the Startjournal content to other media. We foresee to increase the visibility of StartJournal content by pushing it to newspapers, news programs on TV and Radio and through social media channels.
One of the steps we are taking to achieve this is by welcoming Gloria Kiconco to our editorial team. Gloria is a Ugandan poet, essayist, and zine-maker and a familiar face within the Kampala arts scene. Her poetry and essays have been published in various printed media and online platforms. Gloria participated in several arts and animations projects including Art at Work workshop led by Simon Njami at Makerere Art School and Maisha Gardens. She facilitates workshops on zine-making and the creative industry. Apart from her poetry, creative nonfiction, and arts journalism; she experiments with combining poetry and other art forms. Her open and creative view towards use of new media fits perfectly with the direction that StartJournal wants to take.
First issue of 2018
In this first issue of 2018 we have 4 new articles lined up for you and a series of art historical essays that will be published in a new column later.
It is sometimes alleged that ‘visual artists don’t write’, but that certainly doesn’t hold for this issue where we have three visual artists writing about their own or fellow artist’s work.
An emerging sculptor and painter himself, Matt Kayem has found a second calling in art writing : “As a self-proclaimed art critic and writer, I have assigned myself the job of identifying good and bad art and putting a pen to that because I noticed that writers had not done the job well enough, mostly on the local scene. People who’ve never picked up a brush are “critiquing” art!” In this issue he writes about Donald Wasswa’s latest exhibition at Afriart Gallery.
Personally, I do enjoy to read an outsiders’ view on the art scene, someone who can connect the dots and looks at the bigger picture of it all. For those who share my opinion, you will like Carlos Castellano’s analysis of two art projects that have taken place in very different time periods and spaces in Kampala but that both have a strong social engagement and connection. A fascinating read!
Writing and reflecting upon her own art and artistic process is definitely a skill Sandra Suubi masters. In her essay she recounts the journey of constructing her sculpture, In Transit, at Ggaba landing site. She is noting that “very few scholarly studies have been done by visual artists on semi-urban spaces, let alone sculptures inspired by, built or installed within these areas,” and has made it her own mission to do just that.
Also Isaac Mugabi is feeling compelled to write and share about his experiences as a cartoonist. He even goes as far as turning them into career advice for fellow creatives. He urges fellow artist to read and research: “Always be on the lookout for new knowledge and ideas, read about anything and everything. For every single day, discover something new about this industry.”
Do writers or academics have to be artists to be able to write about art and do artist have to be writers to be able to explain their own artworks? And are writers not artists in the degree that they create art, though less visible but more mental, providing pictures that can only been seen with the mind’s eye. Or as LaShawn beautifully writes in her blog: “We [writers] whip up tapestries that can only be seen with the mind’s eye”…“ideas are our paints, imagination our brush, and the entire world our canvasses, stretching to infinity.”
With StartJournal we want to provide a platform that accommodates both and create synergies between artists and writers, academics and critics and publish about art and art forms that please a wide audience, stimulates all senses, and fosters critical thinking.
Enjoy and let us know how we are doing so far by commenting below. After all, we also want to be an (inter)active arts community!
Jantien Zuurbier is a board member of Kampala Arts Trust, responsible for the StartJournal portfolio and is Creative Director at Design Hub Kampala, a flexible work space for creatives, start-ups and freelancers in a renovated warehouse. She also works as a web developer and is a self-taught graphic designer.