Kristian Von Hornsleth
Ugandan ID | Buying Ugandans for Livestock
This artist from Denmark and his project in Uganda a few years ago, really captured my attention and imagination. The work makes power in Uganda rather transparent and it seems appropriate to bring up this particular work as Damien Hirst has plans of setting up a factory in Uganda to reproduce his sculptures.
Kristian von Hornsleth Buys Ugandans for Livestock
Danish Artist buys Africans
A few years ago I received an email from an artist from Uganda called, Eria Sane Nsubuga, who seemed fascinated by an artistic project, which took place in the summer of 2007, in a small rural village in Uganda, by a Danish artist, Kristian von Hornsleth. I find this news interesting and frightening at the same time. The work highlights how vulnerable people are in rural Africa and how easy it is to win favour and essentially power.
Here is the press release and website details but they are out of date now but I think the work is still appropriate and in need of our attention:
How many Africans would change their name in return for 242 pig and 65 goats? The answer is 307. At least if they live in a small village in one of the worlds poorest countries.
This summer, the Danish artist Kristian von Hornsleth visited a poor village in Uganda and gave the local population a fantastic offer they could not refuse: He wanted all of them to take his name! In return, the 307 villagers would receive a large number of pigs and goats.
This has lead to a controversial artwork titled "We want to help you, but we want to own you."
This is the experience of artist Kristian von Hornsleth based on his visits to the village of Buteyongera in the Mukono district in Uganda. Kristian von Hornsleth has made visits to the village a couple of times to build up good relations and gain trust. Together with a team of photographers and film crew, he travelled to Uganda in June and convinced the local population to change their names to Hornsleth. As payment, the Africans received a large amount of creatures for making their choice. So far 100 of the villagers have taken the new name with the remaining 207 currently being processed. A further 365 are on waiting lists.
Following a lot of bureaucratic trouble and headshaking from the local authorities, the official name changing was fulfilled and the project was transformed into art. From October on it is possible to see 100 photographic super portraits in 1x1 meter as well as 20 pieces of 2x2 meter large portrait paintings of Africans holding their new ID cards in front of them. On the ID card you can clearly read their new beautiful surname: HORN$LETH.
The artworks will be shown in Copenhagen from 17th November and at the established gallery DDM in Shanghai in March 2007. Furthermore, a colour illustrated book with text of international philosophers and art experts is planned to be published in October – at the same time as a documentary, produced by the Danish TV-channel DR2.
The Good Artist
Kristian von Hornsleth is convinced that he has done a good deed for Africa.
"Basically I believe in free trade. You sell something to me, and I buy something from you. In this case the Africans are fond of the animals that I offer them – and I am happy to be able to give them a beautiful name and to make some art. The result is that both parts are happy. Nothing else matters", says Kristian von Hornsleth.
Apart from the villagers' initial problems with pronouncing the name Hornsleth, the Danish artist experienced only positive response from the local population. Of course they were a little surprised of the Danes' fine offer for them, but they ended up accepting it. Kristian von Hornsleth is now known in the village as "Birunji", which means "the good one".
The new "Hornsleths" want to be famous
The many new "Hornsleths" are now looking forward to their portraits being shown all over the world. Some of them hope to get famous and maybe someday come to Europe. Kristian von Hornsleth himself is enjoying the interest generated in his photographic artwork.
The next step is for the whole village itself to change its name to "Hornsleth". The artist is also working on creating a tree sculpture production and a smaller agricultural production in the area, which will produce African meat and vegetables to the West.
The name of the products will of course be Hornsleth.
For more information concerning the art project please contact:
Hornsleth Studio Berlin
Telephone: +49 30 781 38 29
Mobil: +49 175 20 77 0 57
For interviews please contact:
Telephone: +45 33 959697
Notes to Editors:
§ Each person will have a national ID card issued to show their new 'Hornsleth' name.
§ In five years 5,000 people will have received an animal from this project if it runs to plan.
§ 'Hornsleths' art project is set to premiere at the Hornsleth & Friends Contemporary Art Gallery in Copenhagen from the 17th of November and will be displayed in Shanghai at the DDM Warehouse gallery from March 2007 and later on in 2007 at more places in Europe.
§ You can follow the project on www.hornsleth.com, which is often being updated with pictures and text concerning the project.
For images of the project or for further information, please contact Susie Dullard on 020 7067 0692 or Sophie Smith on 020 7067 0415.