Samantha Ainembabazi (she/her) is a poet, spoken-word artist, and curator. She began writing poetry at eight years old, when her family went through a traumatic experience and she learned to find solace in words. Her poetry gradually evolved from being a form of escape from trauma to exploring body positivity, and she launched an art-based movement to encourage women to love their bodies. Explore more of Samantha’s work in Uganda and the region on her website, follow her on Twitter, and read more from her in the interview below.
The award came at a time when human rights violations in Uganda were at a record high with laws targeting certain minority groups being passed. These laws also directly target artists like myself who create art depicting injustices to systemically marginalized communities.Samantha Ainembabazi
What role do you think art can play in social change?
Being a universal language, art goes a long way into opening the hearts of the community, which in turn leads to attitude changes and policy influence. Art supports inclusive advocacy. The fact that art comes in many consumable forms makes it the perfect tool for advocacy for a diverse range of people, groups, and activists, including marginalized groups. Art can also help find allies and cultivate support from the general public.
How does your artistic practice amplify or support social movements?
The first mural I curated during the 2021 #16DaysOfActivism campaign against gender-based violence shines light on intimate partner violence in queer relationships. It was on a busy road in the city. At first, I was worried about such direct imaging (one of the portraits is of a trans woman). The mural not only stood the test of time, but whenever I pass by, there are always people looking at it. Once, an older man asked me why the bearded figure had makeup on, and I explained the concept of gender diversity to him. He was genuinely intrigued.
What does this award mean for you and your practice?
When I had first heard about my nomination, I had hoped to release a collection of poems honoring my friend who was a victim of domestic violence, which would add to the work I have already done to raise awareness to this cause. There are pieces I wrote in line with this that I wanted to make into an EP. The award came at a time when human rights violations in Uganda were at a record high with laws targeting certain minority groups being passed. These laws also directly target artists like myself who create art depicting injustices to systemically marginalized communities.
Excerpt from a poem titled _e.stripper.
Samantha the Poet - Gender Olympics | Arise Woman Comedy Jam 2022