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The Ruwenzori Sculpture Foundation is a registered charity set up in 2004 by the directors of Pangolin Editions and Parabola Land Ltd with the aim of enabling cultural and educational exchanges between artists in Africa and the UK. It aims to create models of artistic experiment that stimulate and expose contemporary talent within a broader cultural landscape.
Crucial support for the Foundation's aims has come from The British Council, David Drew, MP for Stroud, Tate, The Royal Academy of Arts and The Royal College of Art.
The foundation is currently building an Arts Centre with a foundry facility in Uganda, which will be managed by Ugandan craftsmen trained for three years in the UK. The response from the local community is one of great enthusiasm; there is both a need and a desire for a casting facility and also a great belief in the opportunities that will arise through artistic exchange.
The Trustees are extremely grateful to all the artists and their families who have given so generously to support their aims. The proceeds from this auction will finance the construction of the centre, providing a home for the Foundation in Uganda and a platform which will enable its activities to flourish for many years to come.
Introduction by Andrea Rose, Director of Visual Arts, British
Three years ago, Rungwe Kingdon and Claude Koenig, trustees of the Ruwenzori Sculpture Foundation, invited me to Uganda. They were planning to establish a foundry in the foothills of the Ruwenzori Mountains, and wanted to check out a disused copper mine in Kasese, west Uganda, as a possible location. I hadn't met either of them before, but knew about Pangolin Editions, the bronze foundry they had set up twenty-three years ago in Stroud, and which today is not only the largest foundry in Europe, specialising in the lost-wax process with an astonishing range of patinas and finishes, but has become the foundry of choice for many of the YBA's (Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas, et al). Typical of the spirit of this venture, eight of us met at Entebbe airport, and set out for western Uganda in a matatu with our camping gear and cameras at the ready: Claude and Rungwe, their accountant and fellow trustee Craig Jenkins, the British sculptors Phillip King (President of the Royal Academy) and Ann Christopher RA, Steve Mwesgiwa, head of sculpture at Makerere Art School, and the principal link between Stroud and Kampala, Robert the driver and me. Not only did we learn a great deal about the ambition of the Foundation during the nine day trip, but about the extraordinary zeal and dedication which lies behind it and which is turning it day by day from inspiration into reality.
Both Claude and Rungwe were born and brought up in Africa: Claude in Mauritius, Rungwe on the campus of Makerere University, Kampala. As we drove along red earth roads with banana and plantain thick on every side, Rungwe would periodically stop the truck to exclaim about a snake in the verge; a bird in the bush, a monkey glimpsed in the boughs of a tree. He not only knew the name of every creature, but its age, its sex, its life cycle, its markings, its skeletal structure, its eating and sleeping habits and its myriad variants and variations. He'd learned, he said, as a child in the the bush with his father, collecting and sketching animals for what was to become one of the most influential and authoritative books on African natural history: Jonathan Kingdon's 'East African Mammals'. The development of Ruwenzori owes something to the profound knowledge and love for East Africa that both Claude and Rungwe share. It also owes a great deal to their understanding of what it means to live in Africa today; the day-to-day difficulties, the cultural differences, the tribulations as well as the rewards of a predominantly rural population having to adapt to the quickening pace of globalisation. On some global indices, Africa appears as the happiest continent on the planet; on others, the most deprived and depressed. I would guess that for them such data miss the point. Ruwenzori is an extraordinary story of how two people are creating a new industry in East Africa, planting and sharing their technical mastery of bronze and metal casting with artists in Africa and how they are husbanding this resource and building a team around them to make sure that the enterprise not only gets started, but has a full and real expectation of success. This demands patience, enthusiasm and determination, and they exemplify this in spades.
Since that first trip to western Uganda three years ago, the idea of building a foundry as a resource for artists across East Africa has taken concrete shape. The copper mine that we originally went to see has been rejected in favour of a site a few miles further north in the Mubuku valley, where the new foundry building is now under construction, using local materials. In this part of Uganda, the Ruwenzori Mountains, romantically referred to as the 'Mountains of the Moon', look remarkably like parts of Switzerland, surrounded by gently wooded slopes and alpine meadows, with only the giant lobelia, three metre -high fern trees , and ten metre - high bamboos to remind you that this is Africa and not Europe. At the same time as the search for a site was taking place, Claude and Rungwe began the search for African artists that they could train in the complex techniques of metal casting, as well as in business, marketing, and all the other aspects of running a commercial foundry necessary to ensure its sustainability.
The first three Ugandan artists came to Britain in 2005, each of them for a period of three - year training, paid for entirely by the Ruwenzori Sculpture Foundation. They have now completed their training and returned to Uganda to take up the role of managing the new foundry. Other artists from East Africa have been coming here in the meantime, and British artists have been going out to Uganda to conduct workshops at Makerere University. Like the craft of casting itself, the flow of ideas and materials is intrinsic to the creation of this new artistic enterprise. Built on a real love and understanding of Africa, and growing with the help of African and British artists, Ruwenzori is destined to become a landmark in cross-continental co-operation and a beacon of artistic excellence.
PROPERTY SOLD TO BENEFIT THE RUWENZORI SCULPTURE FOUNDATION