Over the years, I have hosted informal dinners, teas and lunches with friends, artists and art enthusiasts both in Uganda and abroad. These meals always turn out to be spaces for networking, and critical conversations in an informal and bizarrely comfortable way. As we cook and eat together, one gives oneself to sharing and learning about places, events, things, and art. As we share, I have found that other than mouth to ear testimony of an artist’s existence in Uganda, it’s often an uphill struggle to find and share further information due to what seems like “anomalous” archiving systems. It is the desire to explore these systems as well as attempt to create a living archive that has led to the birth of Iraa-the granary.
Iraa is a Lugbara word for granary, a place where a family’s plentiful harvests are kept for consumption in times of need. Iraa takes on an experimental format to networking and memory gathering starting with the literal preparation and sharing of food as the point of departure. Food is a congregator, builder of trust and somehow identities. In a kitchen like setting, Iraa aims to engage participants in cooking, eating and sharing. The participants don’t necessarily need to know each other but rather can have a common interest with colleagues in a session. This space is one for the intricacies, the memories of who we are and the moments in which we continue to live. The emphasis to have this archive collectively built is to bring its relevance in terms of language/ format, back to the context/the participants. A story telling that does not separate the narrator and the protagonist. The experiments also aim to explore existent modes of archiving within various Ugandan traditions.
Current food sales and future communal cooking/eating sessions are a sustainability plan for the sharing and archiving to continue.