Ugandans forced to cancel performance
Because of a ban from Uganda’s government, and because of fear of “reprisals”, the Danish-Ugandan dance troupe Faces of Uganda decided to cancel their performance scheduled for an opening of a controversial exhibition in Copenhagen
The exhibition entitled ‘The Hornsleth Village Project’ by Danish artist Kristian von Hornsleth is based on a project in Uganda where he gave away livestock to villagers on the condition that they take his surname. Hornsleth says his project is a satire on “Western and Third World relations” and that it is “meant to comment on conditions Western donors attach to aid.” The slogan of his exhibition says: “We want to help you, but we want to own you.”
A Ugandan dance troupe based in Denmark, Faces of Uganda, was hired to perform at the opening of his exhibition in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 24 November 2006. But long before the opening, the “pig-for-name” project which he carried out in the village Buteyongera in Uganda had already caused an uproar in the capital Kampala, in particular because the exhibition consists of, among other things, 108 photos of the poor Ugandan villagers who in return for adopting the surname Hornsleth had received one pig each, financed by the Danish artist.
As a representative of the government of Uganda, James Buturo sent a letter to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs requesting that the exhibition should be stopped. When he did not succeed in this, he targeted the Ugandans based in Denmark who were involved in the exhibition. Troupe leader Musah Kalyango, who was scheduled to perform with his troupe for the opening of the exhibition, received a phone call from the Ugandan ambassador in Denmark, Joseph Tomusange.
Musah Kalyango told the Danish newspaper Politiken that he feared that if he had insisted on carrying out the performance with his troupe, defying the ban, he would have received reprisals, and his family in Uganda would as well.
“As a principle I believe that art should be free. But when the government in Uganda says that it is illegal that I dance, then it is illegal,” the newspaper quotes him as saying. In an editorial Politiken commented that “the incident brings back memories of the freedom of speech debate of the Danish “Cartoon Crisis” in February 2006.”
Ugandan ambassador Joseph Tomusange said that the project reminded him of the days of the slave trade. Musah Kalyango on the other hand said that Kristian von Hornsleth had donated a large group of poor villagers with a good opportunity. The artist himself, Kristian von Hornsleth, insisted that his project was intended to illustrate the hypocrisy of western aid in third world countries. “If you are making a movie about crime, murder, it does not make you a murderer. Art is art, and reality is reality,” he said.
The exhibition was shown in Copenhagen in ‘Politiken’s House’ during four days only, from 17 to 20 November 2006, with free entrance. According to The Monitor in Kampala, Hornsleth described the opening of the exhibit as “a great success” followed by an all-night party, and he denied rumors that he had gone into hiding. The exhibition is shown from 21 November 2006 to 1 January 2007 at Hornsleth & Friends Gallery in Copenhagen – entrance by appointment only.
Politiken – 19 November 2006 (In Danish):
‘Retten til en ged og et pas’ (The right to a goat and a passport)
The Monitor – 21 November 2006
‘Uganda: Hornsleth Speaks Out, Vows to Sue Minister’
Latest on Google News:
The invitation for the reception:
‘Uganda Show Copenhagen’
Hornsleth’s official home page:
‘The Hornsleth Village in Uganda 2006’
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