Canon Griffins Exhibition, a word play, “straight up (…) and going for the middle ground” between the words “Ahoy!” – (“the cry of carriage men”), and “Hoe” – (“a camaraderie thing between “hookers””) offered a photographic insight into Ugandan streets and their slogans. In his exhibition, Canon Griffin picked up these phrases, slogans and sentences and brought it forth through photography to an art seeking audience – spoken word from the bumper-sticker artist or the lamentation of the taxi owner:
“The words on the Taxi or car or Boda-Boda or T-Shirt are trying to hook you into the story or ideology of whoever had them inscribed there. They are asking you to go to Kawempe Maganjo Kagoma, but the words are asking to go to your heart. Whether it’s “Kun FayaKun” or “Ave Maria” or “Bitokote Again” …” (R. Canon Griffin)
By compiling these, he brought together a pleathora of mindsets expressed on the road in a compelling photo exhibition that informed, delighted, and disturbed. This enabled a dialogue on a major and accessible cultural medium, which he states contains much more information about the Uganda social consciousness than is easily assumed. The artist’s exhibition aimed to ultimately increase the knowledge and understanding of each other in this time and space we all are sharing – The artist himself expresses:
“These short phrases or one word hammer-downs, slogans, … sentences … bible verses … and cryptic ones too, they are formed from diverse cultural backgrounds that lie close to the maker’s desire to speak to everybody on the road! Like You and I” (R. Canon Griffin)
A long look at all the slogans on the Taxis, Bodas or Trucks “gives insight into the social structure of owners and operators of these public transport means, and how some expect to be seen”, the artist states. This is very important since “some class of Ugandans are dismissive of it”, maybe “due to desensitization repeated exposure or that misled feeling” of those people behind the means of transport “to have nothing important to say”. The exhibition offered an insight into popular moving figures, as well as short striking quotes about the themes of Religion, Politics, Warfare, Tradition and Culture, the struggle to make a living and Nostalgia, as being “keys” to individual worlds – and the shared space on the streets – too. Not to forget Sports, Popular Culture, as well as Biker and Taxi Gangs and Associations. All because:
“People want to express themselves. To assert their identity and beliefs, to reach out and convert disciples, … to educate … to alert others (…) others are just trying to camouflage in (…) to have something written there so the taxi looks like a taxi … some are sending pleas out (…) … some are actually sending signals that they can’t be messed with … and true, in the transport industry, we have the most dangerous good men or naive bad men or an average of it, some are showing off their powerful affiliates, and some are reminding you ‘Nothing is what it seems’” (R. Canon Griffin)
Griffin work was to uncover, to disclose, because many of these messages work on a subliminal level, on a level where “people notice them but are not consciously aware they are being primed to accept reality in a certain way”. He works on this project since 2012 – which is still going on and can be followed up upon the artist’s Facebook Page “UrbanUnkindness”.
The Exhibition “YOUR HEART HO! Letters from the shuttle. Letters to the metropolis” by R. Canon Griffin, was shown in the Goethe Zentrum Kampala/ UGCS Building from Friday, 1st February up to Friday, 1st March 2019. Canon Griffins Exhibition was made possible by Goethe Zentrum Kampalas/ UGCS Small Project Grant, offering funding for locally based projects in the different fields of art and culture.