Growing up in Mbarara, Uniq Fred Ayebazibwe witnessed his mother create beautiful art on ordinary house items. Using her hands to embroider, his mom turned ordinary curtains into artistic masterpieces. It is at this point that Ayebazibwe interest in making ordinary things and spaces beautiful through art, grew.
While in secondary school, he began reading about great classical artists from Europe like Leonardo Da Vinci and Pablo Picasso. These artists firmed up his belief that Fine Art was a viable career path that he could dedicate his life to. He proceeded to choose art consistently in his academic journey and finished school with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art at Bishop Stuart University in Mbarara.
After leaving school in 2018, Ayebazibwe opened up a home studio that doubles as a tattoo parlor in 2020. With this studio in place, Ayebazibwe splits his time doing tattoos for his clients during the day while he draws and paints at night.
The market response of art in Mbarara has been slow and Ayebazibwe attributes this to the lack of serious artists in the district. In fact, Mbarara’s artists have been heading to Kampala to pursue a fortune in a large urban Centre that is full of promise for them.
Born and bred in Mbarara, Ayebazibwe says that he deliberately chose to stay in his home city until he brings his community to understand and embrace art.
Because of the lockdown and the community’s attitude towards art, his first year of business was not the best. Ayebazibwe soon remedied this by founding a painting and design company called “Uniq Painters and Interior Designers.”
This company has helped him to supplement his income and practice his craft by providing interior design and painting for buildings.
In 2020, a breakthrough came in the form of an invitation by a friend to The Innovation Village in Mbarara. On joining the community of entrepreneurs and innovators, Ayebazibwe was linked to some opportunities that have carried his art business further.
Most of the opportunities have come through events, and from one of the first events that Ayebazibwe attended, he reminisces fondly of it, this way, “At the Christmas Market event alone, I got three orders and over 20 potential customers showed interest in my art pieces.”
On that day, he signed up as a community member of The Innovation Village.
“After signing up, my art was immediately added onto The Innovation Village community platform. Since that time, I have got orders continuously from The Innovation Village networks and beyond. The other activity that gave me greater mileage was the Agritourism Expo where I also made good sales and also got linked to good prospects” Ayebazibwe says.
The constant market for his art pieces has resulted in an increased income flow while enabling him to diversify and expand his business. He also attributed his business knowledge to the community skilling sessions that have opened up his mind to innovation and creativity.
The future for Ayebazibwe has a lot of possibilities. He says that the diversification of his business from tattooing, branding, graffiti and wall painting to interior design ensures that his business will survive and grow because there is a market.
“All I need to do is keep this market satisfied through innovation,” he says.
Right now, Ayebazibwe is holding his place as a top artist in Mbarara. His art pieces are on display at the most prestigious hotels in Mbarara such as Igongo Cultural Centre and Emburara Farm Resort. He credits The Innovation Village for linking him to all the market opportunities and networks.
The larger dream for Ayebazibwe is to build an art empire. “Art is everything. It is in every aspect of our lives, the houses we live in, the furniture we use, the nature we enjoy,” Ayebazibwe points out.
With inspirations like Leonardo Da Vinci whose art has transcended their own mortality, Ayebazibwe hopes to make every aspect of human life into art, beyond painting, tattooing to do construction, carpentry, fashion and so much more.
This month, The Innovation Village Mbarara, a community that Ayebazibwe is a part of, makes one year since its launch in July 2020. As it goes into the second year, The Village pledges to continue being a steward of the dreams of entrepreneurs and innovators in Mbarara. This will be done through skilling and building networks, availing resources and access to markets until every last idea grows to its full potential.