Artist’s Discovery of a Forgotten Tribe

By Stephen Ssenkaaba

New Vision Newspaper, Friday, April 22, 2005
Nyx Interview New Vision
A baby sits on its’ mothers lap. Together, they sit helplessly in the middle of a bush, surrounded by wild grass.

Their faces show sadness. Their tattered clothes tell a story of poverty. If they had an opportunity to speak out, they would probably say this.” Shall we get anything to eat tonight; shall we live to see the next day? Ours is a bleak future….” .

Unfortunately they do not have a voice to speak and to be heard. Very few Ugandans know they even exist. Yet they are one of us-Ugandans just like you and me. In obscurity they lie with nothing, but a cruel death to look forward to.

Meet the Ik , a small ethnic group found in the north east of Kaabong between Kidepo valley and Timu forest.

They live a desolate life tormented by raids from their Karimojong neighbours, languishing in the throes of poverty-with no access to safe water, education and health facilities.

The Ik are one of the forgotten tribes in Uganda. But, through her art, someone is adding her voice to their cry of help.

Nyx Martinez, a painter and volunteer with Radio Active and Family Care, an international Christian NGO, has produced stunning paintings and works of poetry depicting the life of the Ik.

Her work, currently on display at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel Gallery is meant to raise funds to support them.

Martinez’s paintings are inspired by her week-long interaction with the Ik. Through simple realisms, she captures the gloom and doom which surround these people.

Her palette thrives not on artistic perfectionism, but on simplicity. Her repertoire is an careful interplay of dull somber hues with a few bright glazes.

The tranquil greens, browns, purples and blacks calmly embrace the canvases creating a haunting depth, a sense of emptiness that is hard to ignore. There is less detail in her work and more emphasis on mood and subject matter.

The long sad faces in her paintings bring out the suffering of the Ik to life, while the kids’ tender looks depict innocence. At some point looking at Martinez’s work feels like a long, lonely walk through the dark.

The compelling beautiful poetic lines that accompany the work completes the picture.

We cannot know the plight of man

We cannot know their sorrows deep

Till we have walked the path’s they’ve trod

Till we have slept where they do weep… reads one of the lines.