Experimenting Art with maize husks

By Laura Cenge

Have you ever seen a painting that leaves you scratching your head trying to figure out how the artist came up with that idea? Well, now imagine a story told using maize husks.

“Look into my eyes and tell me what you see” is an art project by Diana Laruni, an alumni of Uganda Christian University (UCU), where she uses maize husks to tell stories.

She was tired of the trend where people believe artists have to draw someone just by looking at them. She wanted to try something new and unique using natural materials.

One evening, when Laruni was out in Mukono searching for roasted maize, she saw a pile of maize husks next to the woman roasting on the roadside. Like the artist she is, she wondered if she could create something out of them.

She thought to herself, “Besides the product that we eat, what more can I get out of these?” And that was when the idea of “Look into my eyes and tell me what you see” was born.

She collected the maize husks, and with each day that passed, she had to put them out in the sun to dry. At one point, she had to iron them so as to create a fine piece for her final product.

“I believe that we live in a world where environmental conservation has become a huge topic of discussion. “The art world has focused on non-biodegradable materials, yet they can use a variety of materials around them to tell a story through art,” she said.

As a result, she believes that her project will serve as a mirror for the public to be aware of what is going on around them, as well as allow her to engage in a conversation about personal feelings and thoughts as an artist. She cannot change the world, but she can raise awareness of the issues that surround us.

Laruni fell in love with art as a child. She took a career path in art at the university. The artist, who graduated with a first-class degree in Bachelors of Arts in Industrial Art and Design at Uganda Christian University (UCU) in 2022, has decried the lack of appreciation of art in Uganda.

“There is little support from the local community in Uganda, to the point that it becomes tiring to keep relying on foreigners to support artists, which is not a daily guarantee,” Laruni adds.

In addition to the poor state of many artists, there is the perception that artists are a group of broke people who are forced to look for 9-5 jobs that are not in line with their interests in order to survive and thus ignore their passion.