Henry Lumu

1. Introduction.
Henry Michael Lutalo Lumu (HMLL) was born in December, 1939 in the family of Mr. and Mrs. Nekemiya Bbosa Lumu (NBL) in Ruharo near Mbarara in Ankole District, Uganda. Lumu Senior already had a daughter and son before Henry; and was an aspiring young trader who was to establish one of the most successful Grocery Shops in the Colonial period when Mbarara used to be referred to as a Boma. The large rambling family house set in an extensive Plantation of bananas , sprawling herd’s of cows ,goats and sheep and growing in the shadow of the Ruharo Anglican Cathedral must have imbued a lasting impression on Henry as evidenced by recurring themes and motifs of these Ankole rolling hills, long-horned cows and manifold crafts seen throughout his work.

2. Childhood.
At some point in Henry’s childhood , he must drawn and sketched with charcoa, if not on the walls of his father’s house then in the gravel in the homestead; and foraged with his peers in the Lusuuku (Plantation) for Byayi (the banana tree stems) and other articles and items to use in traditional children’s games of Kanneemu, Kantuntunu, kusiita siiti,entengotengo , gogolo , nkusibiddawo, kawuna,olusuubo,kasombo , okumbonga enje, and okwesa.

3. King’s College, Buddo.
However, the flowering of Henry’s talents as an artist must have become more evident during the Secondary school period at King’s College, Buddo. Often promising art students were commissioned to adorn large Murals on Walls with paintings of school life and these works, perhaps a little faded now, can still be seen at the school. Although Henry had planned for a career as an Architect by proceeding to the Nairobi Royal Technical College, his Buddo Headmaster, Mr. Cobb was persuaded by Margaret Trowell of the Makerere Art School to dissuade him otherwise and thereafter Henry destiny was cast in stone.

4. Makerere University‘s Margaret Trowell School of Fine Art.

The maturity of Henry’s craft as an artist surely was extended during the five years at the Margaret Trowell School; he was exposed to all the aspects of his trade Drawing, Sketching, Etching; Figure, Land scape, Portrait and Still Life, Diagrams, Painting and Sculpture . Many years ago I saw a copy of the Degree Thesis he submitted for his graduation in 1962 on the subject of Uganda Crafts- pottery , mat –making and various artistic art work- but I have no idea whether a copy is in the archives of the Art School.

5. Uganda Television.

Henry was lucky to graduate at the advent of Uganda’s independence when he was appointed as the First Artist Director of the then recently inaugurated Uganda Television Station at Nakasero Hill, formerly a Government Hospital. He was responsible for supervising the various onstage art work and background scenery for Children’s Theatre and props for news readers.

6. Thompson Scholarship in U. K.
Henry was sponsored by the Thompson Foundation to attend a U. K. Television Production course for a year in London. He greatly benefited in improving his skills and techniques in overall artistic innovation and creation of media production.
However, upon his return to Uganda, there had been political developments with clashes between the Central and Buganda government, so much so that he felt the working environment had become politically charged. He voluntarily left Government Service for the private Sector in keeping with his quest for a less stressful working environment.

7. Uganda Publicity Services.

Sharif Arain, a prominent Ugandan-Asian businessman, offered him a post as Artistic Director at his Company -The Uganda Publicity Services. During this period he produced lithographs for highlighting Health or Agricultural themes of campaigns to combat the spread of Polio or Tuberculosis – the simple but clear illustrations conveying a visual message to complement that put out on the airwaves.

8. East African Airways.
Then, being in great demand, it was inevitable that East African Airways (EAA) – an expanding Airline with far-flung destinations made Henry an offer he could not turn down. He became Head of EAA‘s Campaign and Publicity Section and threw himself into promotion work for the airline.

9. “Annual Esso Calendar Prize and after.
In between, work during the Uganda Publicity Services and EAA, Henry entered various competitions for creating the “Esso“ Oil Company’s Annual Calendar and he won it on more than one occasion.

10. Retreat to Nairobi.

Eventually Henry settled in Nairobi where he embarked on a new tempera of Batik art work which he took to such a high degree of sophistication that his prints were flying off the easel, such were they in demand by tourists and residents alike. Sadly, Henry met his untimely end in Nairobi at the peak of his powers but also possibly on the cusp of even greater artistic achievements. His departure left a big gap which others tried to fill, thanks to the trail blazing work he had started.

11. Conclusion.
Three European artists were greatly admired by Henry and he drew tremendous inspiration from their work, namely Jan Vermeer, Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin.
In a short art biography it is not possible to elaborate on all aspects of an artist’s work and maybe during the discussion and exchange of ideas and views, it will be possible to come back and fill in more impressions.

Prepared by Paul Mukasa-Ssali
New York, NY
27 July, 2009.