In episode 68 of The Great Women Artists Podcast, Katy Hessel interviews the great sculptor, Leilah Babirye !!!!!!!!
[This episode is brought to you by Alighieri jewellery: www.alighieri.co.uk | use the code TGWA at checkout for 10% off!]
Working across painting, sculpture, to assemblage; on paper, ceramics, wood and more; using carving, burnishing, weaving and wielding, since graduating around ten years ago, Babirye has become one of the most acclaimed and forward thinking sculptors of this generation. Hailed for her experimental processes, Babirye is also renowned for her vital addressing of narratives surrounding identity, sexuality, and human rights, and her frequent use of traditional West African masks as a way of exploring queer identities.
Born in Kampala, Uganda, and now working in Brooklyn, NYC, Babirye studied art at Makerere University in Kampala, where she was exposed to some formative teaching by some formidable female sculptors.
However, in the wake of Uganda’s 2013 anti-homosexuality bill, Babirye went to NYC where she participated in the acclaimed Fire Island Artist Residency. In 2018, she was granted asylum in the US, and has since risen to prominence with two major solo exhibitions in New York City at Gordon Robichaux.
Babirye’s work is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Both mighty and intimate, heroic and fragile, whether it be her paintings, ceramics or sculptures, they never fail to blow me away. Often using wood or ceramics as a base, she then embellishes them with discarded objects collected from the streets, and what results are towering, powerful, glittering regal-like figures, who unite in the form of imagined queer clans. Speaking about her work she has said:
“Through the act of burning, nailing and assembling, I aim to address the realities of being gay in the context of Uganda and Africa in general. Recently, my working process has been fuelled by a need to find a language to respond to the recent passing of the anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda.”
But! The reason why we are speaking with Leilah today, is because last summer she had an AMAZING exhibition at London's Stephen Friedman Gallery, which we discuss in depth!
I hope you enjoy this episode!
LISTEN NOW + ENJOY!!!
Katy Hessel: @thegreatwomenartists / @katy.hessel
Sound editing by Nada Smiljanic
Research assistant: Viva Ruggi
Artwork by @thisisaliceskinner
Music by Ben Wetherfield