Andrea Stultiens: The Kaddu Wasswa Archive
Long Gallery, Pitt Rivers Museum (ground floor)
23 February – 8 September 2013
The Pitt Rivers Museum is delighted to host the first UK exhibition by Dutch artist Andrea Stultiens. On one level The Kaddu Wasswa Archive – first exhibited to critical acclaim at the Netherlands Fotomuseum in 2010 – is an exploration of the personal archive of a Ugandan man, Kaddu Wasswa, who has meticulously documented his life and thoughts in a large collection of scrapbooks and notes. Stultiens’s artistic engagement with Kaddu’s archive, however, transforms it into a fascinating insight into Ugandan social and cultural life over the last half century.
Kaddu Wasswa was born in 1933 at Ngangwa Village, near Mukono Town, Uganda. When he was seventeen his mother became sick and his family was unable to pay his school fees. Kaddu dropped out of school in the second term of Junior School. After that he managed to get employment as an office messenger, horticultural apprentice, tracer/trainee for the Geological Survey Department, an Assistant Manager, a Uganda Bookshop employee, founder of the first youth club in Uganda, youth leader, bank clerk, student of social work, depot clerk at Esso Standard East Africa Ltd., British American Insurance Ltd. employee, Grocery and Service (home cleaning) shop owner, fund-raiser, novelist and writer of drama and social critique, usher at an English (State) wedding, treasurer of Jinja Rotary Club, pioneer for a Vocational Training Centre in Njeru, civic leader in Ngogwe, Nyenga and Njeru Town Councils, inventor and producer of the Revolutionary Curry Powder Ntula Spices, Rural Community Educator, and an activist for human rights, public health, food security and environmental issues. He lived through colonial times, the regimes of Obote and Amin, and fathered eighteen children, ten of whom died of AIDS.
Kaddu Wasswa met the Dutch artist Andrea Stultiens in 2008 after an introduction by his grandson, the photographer Arthur C. Kisitu. Stultiens found in the way he had documented his life a fascinating alternative route into the Ugandan history she had been searching for. The three set out on a mission to tell Kaddu Wasswa’s life in photographs, based on the documentation he compiled over the decades. A book was published about the project in 2010, but the collaboration continues, and will do so for as long as Kaddu Wasswa is still adding new chapters to his life.
“Somehow I am not completely at ease with calling myself a photographer”, writes Andrea Stultiens. “Instead I describe myself as someone doing things with photographs. I make them, collect them, look at them, think and write about them. Sometimes I make the results of this visible for the rest of the world online, in books or in exhibitions. All of this is aimed at telling relevant stories about the way we deal with the world, while it is also research into how we represent ourselves and that same world in photographs.
When I realized that my photographs were only one take on the world, that is, female, of a certain time and place, with eyes at about 1.6 metres high, I started to work with archival material. Images that I found added other dimensions in time and perspective to the photographs I made. At the moment my work often starts with an existing collection of photographs, or at least an existing story that I try to tell by editing and adding to what is already there.”