Acaye Kerunen, Installation view, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, 2023

Acaye Kerunen

Acaye Kerunen

A NI EE (I AM HERE)

July 1 – August 12, 2023
Los Angeles

Biography

Acaye Kerunen (b. Kampala, Uganda) is known for her multidisciplinary practice encompassing visual art, curation, activism, acting, poetry, writing, and performance. Her works often meditate on the intricacies of natural systems and the impact of climate change, as well as enactments of labor and emancipation. 

Kerunen’s installations are forged from natural materials locally grown, harvested, dyed, and woven in Uganda, including banana fiber, raffia, reeds, and palm leaves. Through her work, she seeks to dismantle the hierarchies of fine art and craft, elevating women’s labor within socio-political systems. She often commissions primary women to create baskets, tablemats, winnowing trays, and other functional items before reimagining them as assemblage installations. Materiality is central to Kerunen’s artistic practice, and her mutable, expansive installations can be understood as living artworks. Through her intuitive use of material, color, and form, the artist creates enthralling biomorphic abstractions that envelop viewers into their folds. 

Kerunen’s installations are deeply engaged with their environments, at once rooted in history and emancipatory in their resistance to colonialist, patriarchal narratives. Constructed using embroidery, hand stitching, knotting, and weaving techniques she learned from her mother, Kerunen’s artworks embody ancestral knowledge. The labors, songs, and identities of the women in her community reverberate through the fibers of the artist’s finished works.

The impact of climate change is a central concern of Kerunen’s multifaceted, activist-minded practice. With her regenerative artistic process, Kerunen imagines a future that facilitates and encourages communal living, working, and art making. Her use of natural fibers and dyes, locally sourced from the wetlands surrounding Nalubaale (Lake Victoria) as well as the Great Lakes Region, is testament to the artist’s strong relationship to the land and people of Uganda. Kerunen has said that her incorporation of banana fiber, banana rind, and raffia in her work “speaks into a very resilient culture and practice of cultivation and living with a conscious relation to the land and regenerating an environment that is being depleted.” 

Kerunen’s work was showcased in the two-person exhibition Radiance: They Dream in Time in Uganda’s inaugural national pavilion at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy (2022), and she presented her first solo exhibition, titled Iwang Sawa, at the Afriart Gallery, Kampala, Uganda (2021). That same year, the artist participated in a curatorial fellowship supported by Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK; Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda; 32 Degrees East, Kampala, Uganda; and Afriart Gallery, Kampala, Uganda. In 2018, she showed her interactive, collaborative installation Kendu (2018-present) at the Nyege Nyege Ugandan culture and music festival. The artist holds a BS in Mass Communication from the Islamic University in Uganda, Mbale. Kerunen lives and works in Kampala, Uganda.

Selected Works

News

Ocula | Acaye Kerunen Weaves Her Way Back to the Venice Biennale

02/15/2024

Artillery | The Here and Now of It

01/02/2024

KCRW: These Artists Weave Together a Vibrant Celebration of Women of Color

07/26/2023

Coffee and Tea Ceremony with Acaye Kerunen

07/01/2023

RAM Galleri: Acaye Kerunen in conversation with Joakim Borda

04/14/2023

Acaye Kerunen: Sacred Rain | RAM Galleri, Oslo, Norway

04/13/2023

Related Publications

Acaye Kerunen and Collin Sekajugo: Radiance, They Dream in Time

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