Matt Kayem | Uganda

“In my work, I usually revisit pre-colonial Africa or Buganda where I come from and pick out things in daily use and mostly the bark-cloth, a traditional fabric that has been made by my ethnic group for ages. I use this cloth with denim and modern items like urban clothing to comment and highlight my position as a young ‘modernised’ African trying to reconnect themselves with the depleted past that went with colonialism.”

Michael Matthew Kayiwa was born in the small town of Mityana, Uganda. He currently lives and works in Kampala.  Both his parents owned a bookstore right in the heart of the town and Michael was introduced to writing and drawing rom an early age. He attended Budo Junior School for his primary education, a traditionally prestigious school and continued to Mengo Senior School for his secondary level. At Mengo Senior, he took on art as a subject right from senior one. After his secondary school, he joined Michelangelo College of Creative Arts, Kisubi. After three years at the art school, he attained a certificate and diploma in art and design in October 2015.

Kayem applies his skills in painting, sculpture, installation, performance, graffiti and photography; he is also an art writer/critic whose work has been published in Start Journal,, ContemporaryAnd and In his work, the African wax print fabric (kitenge) appears to comment on contemporary African people, fake versions of the real ones, that have lost their original identity after colonialism. Fabric is considered by the artist the right media to represent this issue thanks to its contested origin and debatable relationship with the continent. Denim usually represents the western influence while bark-cloth is usually used to represent our traditional and original nature as Africans. “My work hints on decolonization of myself and my kind and also a possible conscious integration and adoption of cultures alien to the African”.

He has participated in a number of group shows which include “Ekifananyi kya Muteesa” at Makerere art gallery and at the Photo Museum in Antwerp(2017), Laba Arts Festival(2016), Kampala Biennale(2016,2018) and others. Kayem has had three solo shows; Pop.Rap.Hip(2016), Cool Afrika(2018) and Cool Afrika 2(2019). Matt has been part of AtWork workshop by Simon Njami(2018), several art writing workshops and a finalist at the Mukumbya-Musoke art prize(2018).

Selected exhibitions 

African Identities, AKKA Project Venice, Venice, Italy 

Notes About The Times, Group exhibition, Modzi Arts, Lusaka, Zambia

Cool Afrika II, Group exhibition, Kioko Mwitiki Gallery, Nairobi, Kenya

Cool Afrika, Group exhibition, Design Hub Kampala, Uganda

Kampala Art Biennale, Kampala, Uganda

32 Degrees East, Group exhibition, Ugandan Arts Trust, Kansanga-Kampala, Uganda

Ekifananyi kya Muteesa, Group exhibition, The Makerere Art Gallery, Kampala, Uganda

The East African Visual Art Connect Exhibition, Nommo Gallery, Kampala, Uganda

Pop-Rap-Hip, Solo exhibition, UnderGround Gallery, Kampala, Uganda

My Art, My Life, Group exhibition, The Makerere Art Gallery, Kampala, Uganda

Selected Works