Kwiz Era has used his gifted hands to paint a conscious world. Through his brush, he tells stories about environment conservation that are often taken for granted. Through his work, he reminds us of our responsibility in conserving the environment.
He was the boy that dismantled radios at home looking for the people who were speaking through it. And that was the only time he ever sat down. When he was not doing that, he was away playing football or taking on another mischief (errand) wherever his little legs carried him to. His parents are yet to get over the fact that Kwizera today spends most of his time hidden alone in his art studio reimagining life through creating art pieces.
Life does that to all of us. We move on to become shadows of our former selves. We evolve with the times to become better. Like onions, we shade off layers to become anew. Like plants, we become the new buds that blossom into colourful scented flowers. In the process, like a sculpture, pieces are chiselled off so we can ably fit into the new life outfit.
Born Alex Kwizera, like any other child, he once wanted to become a pilot at one time, a doctor at another, and an engineer when he attended his earlier physics lessons. As he navigated these different options, he missed the one thing he did best; drawing. He used to draw maps and other diagrams in primary school for teachers who would in turn give him some pocket change. Then, he thought he was doing it for the pocket money so he could buy a snack at break time. What he did not know was that he was honing his drawing skill.
By the time he made it through high school, he was sure he wanted to pursue a career in Art. He applied to the Margaret Trowell School of Art At Makerere University where he studied for three years.
He believes this is the era in which he should paint a conscious mark on earth hence his moniker; Kwiz Era. The era in which Kwizera paints. His art mainly majors in man and nature.
In the middle of the hectic Ntinda suburb, he has managed to make a special haven his escape. Here, climbing plants have established a thick clan ringing over the fence covering the walls. Inside the courtyard is a mural of a lion that sits under the green foliage. From afar, you can be tempted to think, the lion wears the green as its crown. More plants have found home in this household that even the breeze is chilled.
Across the courtyard is a sitting parlour that is set under a guava tree whose fruit bearing branches interlock with other plants that have consumed a bigger chunk of the quadrangle. “This was my covid project” says the soft spoken artist as he shows me the different types of plants sitting on white shelves in very clean containers by the side porch. Beneath them are dumbbells in weights of 10kg, 15kg and 30kg next to an adjustable black workout bench.
The birds chirp and tweet by the open bowl of water left in the open as they sing praise of this new playground where they are welcome to play and stay. His big brown furred cat named Lion, gently purrs and rolls about asking to be patted in the neck like the king of soft life home cats are.
It is a Tuesday afternoon. The sun is playing catch-up after a storm of rain interrupted its normal programming when he tells me, “I rarely leave this place. This is my humble sanctuary where I have lived and worked for the last six years.”
This second last born of six children has taken on a solo career path that he shares with no one else in his family. Even among his colleagues with whom he started out as artists many have fallen off the wayside. They have decided to pursue different paths.
The difference between passion and career either blurs or clarifies the path but not both. It has been passion from day one. It is the reason he says. Art as a career is unpredictable. “People will always admire your work but you cannot easily convert that into a sale.” Selling art is not an everyday business. Clients come in when they do. It is the practice of art that is a daily business.
You have to do it every day. You have to be doing something every day. That is how the skill grows. You do not wait for the time when the client comes. And to be able to achieve that, you need to be somewhere you can challenge yourself to think. That is why he hides in this sanctuary. His plans are to go further away from ease of reach so he can concentrate and create more.
In February 2021, Kwizera had a solo exhibition at MoTIV where he invited the public to see his work on Man and Nature. This signature has earned him partnerships with various agencies and organisations. It is through them that he has been able to paint murals and streets. He has done live painting at events on top of adding colour to special moments of loved ones through portraits.
He is both an illustrator and a painter. As an illustrator he is given an assignment to execute while as a painter, he creates from scratch. To be able to pull off these two conflicting assignments, he has learnt to be a keen listener to his clients, and an observer to nature.
In a world that is fast and frantic, Kwizera believes that through telling our story, in text or on canvas, there is more that can be salvaged. “We have a young population that is visually active. According to Brandwatch, there are over 1.6 billion monthly YouTube users. There is a wide consumption of visual content today than ever recorded in history. This means that if we are to conserve the environment, we must be able to tell the story in the ways consumers prefer them. We must take art to the places where people spend most of their time; their screens.”
This cannot be done in isolation. It calls for partnerships. It calls for collaboration among the various stakeholders.
“Art has always been a tool of change. Today, different artists are recycling discarded plastics as materials for their art as a means to sensitise people about the dangers of environmental degradation. But it is not only an artist’s role. For the environment to be better, we need to do better at an individual level. We need to make decisions that favour us. We can replace the many polythene bags we get at supermarkets with a box. You don’t need to be an artist to do that. You just have to a conscious citizen. The power to conserve the environment is in our hands as is the power to destroy it. I believe we are capable of doing and becoming better. Together we can paint the picture of the clean environment we imagine of by doing right.”
Through art clinics, the children are introduced to art so that they can learn to express themselves on canvas. It could be a physical or virtual canvas, it doesn’t matter. The intention is to switch on curiosity and observation in the minds of the young ones so that they can be able to fall in love with their environment. Perfection is not the goal right now, expression is. Every art piece is another abandoned work still in progress. It all begins with consciousness.
This story was first published on ACTADE