The Bronx Meets East Africa

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By Patrick Diaz and Angela Reyes

The Bronx Meets East Africa showcases work of young Ugandan immigrants who compare life in their native land to life in a densely populated Bronx.

East African artist Sika Foyer says she focuses on several themes: feeding families, providing shelter, belonging to a community and having a legacy. She says she loves to “use various mediums such as charcoal, crystals, chalk crystals, paint, threads and newspapers to create pieces of art in lineage with abstract concepts.”

Foyer’s Coming Together depicts a man pushing a bike laden with a bag of plastic bottles, tied up so it doesn’t fall. The people behind him are having a conversation while waiting in line with bags and sticks themselves. Another piece features a woman wrapped in a piece of cloth with her child on her back. Her child is biting down on her shoulder as if he doesn’t want to be put down. The woman is staring back with piercing eyes as if she needs help.

“With affirmative art, I try to give possible solutions to our struggles,” Foyer said. “In this piece Coming Together, for example, I showcase people from different parts of the world with common struggles. I believe we can sew our shredded pieces and make a beautiful environment to benefit all.”

The art exhibit shows that people are more alike than they might think they are, even if they are separated by oceans, cultures, or languages. Dario Rodriguez intently studied the work of artist Alex Ahwera. He said in Spanish, “Yo era motoconcho y mesanjero en Santo Domingo.” This roughly translates to, “I was a motorcycle cabby (motorcycle taxi) and a delivery courier in the Dominican Republic.”

Ahwera is a visual artist from Busia in Eastern Uganda. She is pursuing her degree in fine art and likes to paint, sculpt, draw, printmaking and photography.  “I am always inspired by life in Uganda, the way of transport, the way of feeding, the love we share and the hospitality we hold as people of this nation,” she says. “It inspires me to tell the world how beautiful Uganda is through my paintings, drawings and so much more.”

In one painting of Busia, two brown houses appear to be burned down. They are surrounded by a cornfield that also seems to be burnt.  In another, she paints a beautiful Uganda woman who wears yellow birds as a headpiece.

The Bronx Meets East Africa introduces New Yorkers to art inspired from a faraway land yet something in it looked familiar to some visitors.

“It looks like the favelas back home in Brazil,” said Hugo as he viewed work of artist Stephan Kitayimbwa that depicted makeshift homes or shanty towns. “I grew up in something really familiar to that.”

Many visitors that were not of African descent could relate to the art. You could hear them say, “Wow, it’s just like that in DR or Haiti or Mexico,” depending on where they or their families were from. In the exhibit pamphlet, the artists explain that this is the reaction they were seeking. “The exhibition, followed by other similar cultural exchanges, hopes to rectify this lost connection and start an ongoing culture exchange between East African artists and the Bronx community.”

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