Ugandan Former Child Soldier and UgandanArtist Peter Oloya on Art for Peace
Having shared with you a recent essay about political art the other day, this seems the appropriate follow up: Peter Oloya, a Ugandan former child soldier and artist currently in Lagos, Nigeria, using his art to promote peace and healing.
By Obidike Okafor
Next Magazine, March 6, 2011 12:31AM
Peter Oloya is a Ugandan artist with a troubled past. The former child soldier dropped his gun for weapons of art and has been painting, drawing and making sculptures since then. The graduate of Ugandan’s famous Makerere University where he studied his art experienced firsthand, the over two decades of war between the Lords Resistant Army (LRA) rebels and Uganda government that has left hundreds of thousands of people dead. “I lost 21 relatives. I and my mother were abducted by the LRA, I was 11 years old. I survived death as a child soldier and managed to escape after 20 months. With what I now call my trauma as a loner, I discovered my artistic talent and worked as a self taught commercial wood carver and supported my family and saved money to study art. Art has restructured my life and those around me” he said.
Moved by the suffering of the youths in Internally Displaced Persons camps in the face of war in northern Uganda Oloya wanted do something, so he used art as his medium for social change. “Art restructured my life. I lost my childhood and teenage stage of life growing up amidst war but I can prevent someone from walking down my painful path. And since art gives me hope and reasons to live, I decided to be a source of change in the lives of many. It is on this basis that in 2004 I founded Art for Community Development, a community based organisation operating in Kitgum and Gulu Districts in Northern Uganda to provide psychosocial support, life skills training in art and craft, to the formerly abducted and disadvantaged youths at the grassroot,” he said.
Oloya had selected Nigeria as his destination after he was awarded the residency, because he saw similarities between the outbreak of violence in Jos and that in Northern Uganda where he was raised. … “I am deeply touched by the conflicts in Nigeria and Sudan. In relation to my experience in northern Uganda, I want to be part of the peaceful solutions in Nigeria and Africa at large. Out of interest, I chose to be part of the change I see. I am working on a peace art project themed ‘Nigeria: Towards a Culture of Peace, Unity, Non-violence and Co-existence’ with selected artists, members of the wider community , from both the Moslem and Christian faiths, from northern and southern Nigeria to promote the culture of peace, non violence and co-existence of Moslems and Christians in Nigeria,” Oloya stated. He also hopes that the message will ring in the hearts of other Africans across the continent. ...
Oloya will give a talk at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Lagos and take part in an art peace project in Nigeria called Hope and Despair. This sounds like a worthwhile project to promote. If anybody has more information pls. let me know and I’ll update this blog accordingly.