“Through the act of burning, nailing and assembling,” explains the Ugandan artist Leila Babirye, “I aim to address the realities of being gay in the context of Uganda and Africa in general.” Back in 2015, after a local newspaper outed her, Babirye’s place in her masters program was rescinded and she was forced to flee Kampala. She made her way to the U.S., where she took an artist’s residency in Fire Island. Granted asylum in 2018, Babirye continues to make regal sculptures. Her masks and figures—imposing in spirit and scale—are made by coiling and molding clay by hand. They are then splattered and glazed, whittled and burned, and adorned with found material. The final creations are eclectic mashups of African culture, as unorthodox as they are stunning. —E.C.
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