Alex Muleke’s Journey
“I am not just an artist but a person who shows what I feel inside visually on canvas. Art is all about expressing feelings and emotions,” said Alex Muleke during a conversation with him at his workshop in Kireka which is close to his former school, Luigi Giussani High School (LGHS). Alex is currently waiting to graduate from Kyambogo University where he was doing his Bachelor of Education in Fine Art.
I had not met a good painter in person until I encountered Alex Muleke. The beauty in his workshop was awe-inspiring. Before we could even sit down, he started to take me through the mysteries of his paintings that were hanging on the wall.
“What makes a painter a good one is the ability to express him or herself visually on canvas,” said Alex as he showed me a sit. Leaning back in his chair, he proceeded “Artists include realists, impressionists, expressionists, perfectionists, etc. During my tough days, I am an expressionist yet sometimes I can be an impressionist. Whenever I have no one to talk to, I talk to my canvas by painting. Impressionism is there to just show people that you can do something for example by making it hyper-realistic. I express what I feel deep inside myself and I love to tell my story through my Art work.
Alex did not look to the heavens for a miracle to start working on his dream. He made use of what was available to invent himself.
With a wide smile, Alex said, “I knew it was not going to be easy for me to do my painting, especially in a country like Uganda so I started by thinking of what would make a great artist. I thought of the styles and techniques along with the content I needed to do. During the lockdown, I decided to make an iconic painting on one canvas so that the people that will be born soon will see this painting and remember the dark days.
Since I come from a slum where people use a lot of charcoal for cooking, I decided to try using charcoal dust to paint. I made some research and found out that people who use charcoal for painting smash it to make a powder which is used commonly as dry media to smudge and draw. I decided to use it in its very form without smashing it.
Because of the quarries and many types of soil, I looked no further. I had a variety of soils to choose from, some were in, yellow, brown, black, etc. I started to pick these soil samples, got binders for the canvas, and came up with a sample painting. I then made a portrait called “The Mask which was my first painting. I posted a video of the painting on YouTube and an American friend wanted to buy the painting. I however declined the money and kept it because I realized its worth.
Meeting Auntie Rose, doing life with MPI, and going to Luigi Giussani High School revolutionized not only my talent in painting but my life in general. Beyond her title as the Executive director, Auntie Rose has been my friend since I met her in 2012. She is a rare epitome of unconditional love. She always reminds me of the value that I ‘am’.
Being reminded that you are great and that you have value is the best way of teaching because it communicates to the heart. Jesus Christ of course is the validator of your value and his answer is always YES. If you are at the mercy of people’s opinions to do what you have to do, then you are bound to burn out.
While at LGHS, I met an amazing man called Seve who was the educational advisor at that time He fell in love with my work and looked for me at my place. He took me to his staff and showed them my work which motivated me to work on my craft. I started getting gigs making portraits where I got some money that I shared with my family.”
Without the right people around you, valid dreams can die. It is important to speak genuine positivity to others when you also surely see it. If you do not see value in others, then you will become a stumbling block to them. Alex, later on, realized that chasing money is not the ultimate source of happiness and satisfaction even after he had seriously embarked on his painting journey.
This became clear to him when he stood face to face with a big East African musician called Diamond Platinumz to gift him with a painting of himself at a press conference in Kampala.”When I entered the press conference, I realized money was not going to be enough. I felt there was something more than money and it is that happiness that comes with being appreciated.
Diamond instructed me to talk to his Personal Assistant to be paid but I did not say a word at that moment. I missed the money but I was overjoyed by the fact that I was appreciated. I need the money but my eyes are set on something bigger than the money. Happiness is free so I will always choose it.
I always wanted to be an artist ever since high school. It was not a very strong motivation because all I wanted was to make some money off of painting to take care of my family. I want to be that great artist like Benon Lutaya, and Luganzi Bruno my lecturer. I want to be the person who organizes a gallery and people turn up to marvel at my story. I know it will take time, but am not about to give up even though my journey feels lonely sometimes. I know I am not alone and I am made for happiness.
Written by Vancy Tomson.