Born in Kampala, Eric became interested in the arts very early. He was fascinated by paintings and sculptures and strongly influenced by his elder brother whom he describes as a “very good illustrator”. Especially as a child he admired him and used to imitate his work. In the arts room of his primary school (that to him was the most interesting place of the building), Eric made his first sculpture: a volcano made of clay with a lava stream of red paint: A memory that seems to evoke a weird mixture of shame, pride and amusement in him. He would paint and sculpture, paint and sculpture, until, when he was ten years old, his life changed drastically: His father accepted a job placement in an import/ export company in Mombasa, Kenya, where Eric spent the eight years that followed. While his father would have liked to see Eric become a businessman like himself, he still supported his son’s passion. Eric recalls that his Dad was not around too much but that he would bring home sketchpads and pencils. Unfortunately, he had no chance to see his son establish himself as a professional artist – he passed away in 2005. For the whole family this meant: Goodbye Mombasa, Welcome back to Kampala.
After passing his A-levels, there was nothing in the world that he would have loved more than studying art or media design – but he just could not afford it. Others were luckier. His close friend Mugeni, for example, left Kampala to study in Nairobi. Eric, however, did not bathe in jealousy or self-pity but instead believed that his time would come. “How can I keep myself busy while I’m waiting for the chance to attend university?” was the question that did not only drive him through the day but that also encouraged many, many paintings. Thus, without realising, Eric was already on his way. In 2007, still waiting for his time to come, he started his professional career when he took part in an exhibition for young artists at AKA Gallery Kampala. From time to time, the gallery would exhibit and eventually sell his work, making it more and more easy for Eric to keep following the path he had chosen. Thinking ahead, Eric bought a camera from the money he had got through the sales. Eric made his first steps in photography, extending his means of expression within the visual arts. Now everything happened really quickly. It was in that same year that his cousin offered him a job as a photographer for a newspaper in Kigali, Rwanda. Only three months later, already back to Kampala, Eric had saved enough money to open up a media company, together with his younger brother Ennock.
That important year of 2007 was followed by a less turbulent period. The two brothers basically spent their time experimenting with new programs, especially 3D animation, and helped their mother manage a bar on Entebbe Road – through which the family earned their living. It was a poster that initiated the next and most recent major step in Eric’s life and career. When he visited the National Theatre, he saw it hanging at the wall: It was the call for application for KLA ART – Kampala Contemporary Art Festival. Eric applied. And when the answering letter came and he saw that his concept was accepted, Eric was literally jumping up and down, in his mother’s bar on Entebbe Road. For KLA ART 012, Eric and his brother produced the animation film Breezy Nuts that was screened in one of the twelve art containers of the festival. All of a sudden he was very well connected to the arts scene of Kampala and much more confident himself about being an artist – his family, he says, suddenly understood what he was doing and that it was leading somewhere.
One of the people he met through the festival was Alex Lyons – a British filmmaker and video artist. Hanging around with him, they soon had the idea to cooperate. And now they do. Eric, Alex and Mugeni (Eric’s friend who had left Kampala to study in Nairobi) work together as a team of highly skilled and focussed filmmakers with a bunch of ideas – as Artists in Residence at the arts foundation 32° East in Kansanga, Kampala. Their yet to be published projects seem (and look) promising: The three artists are working on several experimental documentaries that focus on details of urban Kampala’s everyday life. But little post-its on the shelf in their office suggest that even more will be coming up soon.
Chart Dimesions Life in no Lane
Their next project will be shown at the LaBa! Arts Festival on 25th May.
by Dennis Große-Plankermann