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Ivy Kalungi – Changing the narrative of trauma one installation at a time

Many who grew up in Great Britain and were raised by parents of African heritage questioned how to culturally identify in society. Artist, Ivy Kalungi pondered for years, before drawing a conclusion to classify as a hybrid.

Having grown up in a house full of creatives, it only seemed fitting that Ivy herself would follow in their footsteps. She began looking at German expressionistic films and fell into fasciation over the set designs and obscure shapes in the background. Today she has set out to combine both her passions of film and African heritage to create an exhibition showcasing contemporary traces of memory within African culture.

The choice to interweave wood and metal was inspired by her father and grandfather’s usage of materials. “They used to make structures” she claims. “I love that I can create and manipulate almost everything with metal and wood.” Shortly after deciding on her base, she shifted her focus to the method of structure that best suited her style. “Layering is a common theme within my work. I am interested in how memory functions but, particularly how it functions in today’s age because of how fast technology is moving. That being said, it only felt right for me to explore the past and the present traces of memory. The social impact behind my work is simply the fact that I want it to connect to a place, object or person.”

The complexity of cultural identity is never easy to define or pinpoint, but Ivy makes a brave attempt. She describes her upbringing of growing up in Belfast by Ugandan parents as a cultural hybrid, because of her efforts of fusing subconscious memories of Uganda with Northern Ireland. “As I get older, I have become more interested in how I can make my experience visible within my work. It seemed fitting to add both my Irish and Ugandan narratives to my exhibition”. Ivy states that she is unsure if the narratives that have shaped her today may be deemed as negative or positive. But, they have assisted her in questioning the world and sparked a curiosity within that aids in absorbing all the knowledge presented. Inspiration of her exhibition was mainly drawn from her family’s achievements and failures, with a hint of environmental awareness. Being brought up in a country you now call home, with family away from home can be triggering and lonely. Yet, Ivy believes it’s not only shaped her but fuelled her creativity. “I wouldn’t change a thing. I appreciate what my parents have done by raising me to know where I come from and my heritage, but also allowing me to embrace the Irish culture. I do miss my grandparents though.”

As our interview draws to a close, it only felt right to ask for the lessons she learnt from looking into traces of memory within African culture and her opinion on the changes that need to be made. To which she answers, “I think there needs to be more assistance available for people of colour, aiding them heal through their past experiences. Whilst attending and partaking in the workshops at FACT Liverpool, I bonded with women that came along because we all had something in common and that was a voice.”

Words by Marcia Veiga


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