Sunday, March 5, 2017

Local Art Scene: Saturday Evening with Steveboyyi @ the AICHO

While driving to Trepanier Hall Saturday evening I privately hoped there would be a good turnout for the art show featuring Steveboyyi Makubuya, the young man temporarily here in the Northland from Africa. As we slowed to find a spot to park on Second Street it was gratifying to see all the parking spaces were taken well into the next block. This would be a good crowd I surmised, and indeed it was.

Entering the hall one was immediately struck by the good vibes and energy. Dozens of drawings and pictures filled the walls with conversations taking place in front of each. The murmurs and chatter were indicative of an unusual level of excitement for this show. A WDIO cameraman filmed from different vantage points in the room as a continuous thread of people filed in. Across the room I could see Kelly McFaul-Solem of CPL Imaging rushing to make a mark on the tag of yet another picture indicating it was sold. A keen eye would have observed that numerous other pieces had already been snatched up.

At a certain point Moira (rhymes with Theory) Villiard took the stage and corralled the crowd's attention in order to introduce the young man from Uganda whose artwork was here displayed.

Steveboyyi began by explaining his name and where he came from. When he was found at nine months old and brought to the orphanage in Kampala he had no name and no birth date. Kids called him Street Boy, so it was simple enough to give this a twist. He would be Steve Boyyi. An African last name was adopted and he became Steveboyyi Makubuya.

When it came to filing to get a visa he needed to have a birth date. Imagine if you could choose any day for your birthday. What would you choose? He chose a date that was important to him in October.

Throughout his talk he expressed such joy and natural enthusiasm that the crowd remained fully engaged throughout his storytelling. He shared how when he was seventeen the orphanage closed and he returned to the streets. For more than two years he slept in a tree and fed himself from the dumpsters at a college hear where he made his "home." When he described how the birds were his best friends and the rain was his enemy, everyone laughed.

After his speech the children gathered to hear more stories.
WDIO sent a cameraman to document the event.
It was fortuitous that he should meet some missionary nurses who were serving in Africa. When invited to America to share his art, there were regulations to be overcome. In order to leave Uganda you have to have land and family or you will not be issued papers. These rules were set aside when he showed his art.

Tim Turk, one of the nurses who assisted in bringing him to Northern Minnesota, would tell Steveboyyi and other young people there what snow was like. "In Uganda," Steveboyyi said, "People don't believe snow exists." And with a very big smile he exclaimed, "I really love snow!"

He told another very funny story. So many things here were new to Steveboyyi, and on one occasion when they came out of a store after shopping he saw a dog in the driver's seat of a car in the parking lot with its front paws up on the steering wheel. Tim Turk told Steveboyyi that in America even the dogs can drive. The young artist said it took him three weeks to learn that this was not true.

In addition to original artwork there were also reproductions available.
The beginning of what will hopefully be a long friendship.
He closed by telling us of his deep gratitude for all the people who have helped him, and reminding us that we should be grateful for all that we have. There are so many kids on the streets in Uganda who have nothing.

You can read more of Steveboyyi's story in my previous blog post and in Christa Lawler's March 2 DNT account.

A quick shout out to Michelle LeBeau, AICHO Director, who has helped bring so many really special events to this facility. Though she keeps the spotlight on the performers, poets, writers and artists, she deserves to be recognized for her role in making these events happen. Thank you, Michelle. You are making a good contribution to our community.

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To see more of Steven Boyyi's paintings and drawings, visit this page at Jeff Frey Photography/CPL Imaging.


Michelle said...

Thank-you Ed! For covering so many of our events - your stories are interesting and compelling, I believe your coverage of our events both before and after, are a major contributor to the success of AICHO Galleries! Michelle

Ed Newman said...

Thank you, Michelle. As someone once said, "It takes a village." We all do our part.