Acaye Kerunen


Acaye Kerunen is a multidisciplinary performance and installation artist, storyteller, writer, poet actress and activist based in Kampala, Uganda. She graduated with a BSc in Mass Communication from the Islamic University in Uganda, Kampala and obtained a Diploma in Information Systems Management from Aptech. Kerunen’s installations are forged from natural materials locally grown, harvested, dyed, and woven in Uganda, including banana fibre, raffia, reeds, and palm leaves. Through her work, she seeks to dismantle the hierarchies of fine art and craft, elevating women’s labour within socio-political systems. She often commissions local women to create baskets, tablemats, winnowing trays, and other functional items before reimagining them as assemblage installations. Materiality is central to Kerunen’s artistic practice, and her mutable, expansive installations can be understood as living artworks. Through her intuitive use of material, colour, and form, the artist creates enthralling biomorphic abstractions that envelop viewers into their folds. 


Kerunen’s installations are deeply engaged with their environments, at once rooted in history and emancipatory in their resistance to colonialist, patriarchal narratives. Constructed using embroidery, hand stitching, knotting, and weaving techniques she learned from her mother, Kerunen’s artworks embody ancestral knowledge. The labours, songs, and identities of the women in her community reverberate through the fibres of the artist’s finished works. 


The impact of climate change is a central concern of Kerunen’s multifaceted, activist-minded practice. With her regenerative artistic process, Kerunen imagines a future that facilitates and encourages communal living, working, and art making. Her use of natural fibres and dyes, locally sourced from the wetlands surrounding Lake Victoria, is testament to the artist’s strong relationship to the land and people of Uganda. Kerunen has said that her incorporation of banana fibre, banana rind, and raffia in her work “speaks into a very resilient culture and practice of cultivation and living with a conscious relation to the land and regenerating an environment that is being depleted”.


Kerunen’s work is showcased in the 2022 two-person exhibition Radiance: They Dream In Time in Uganda’s inaugural national pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale, curated by Shaheen Merali. Kerunen presented her first solo exhibition, titled Iwang Sawa, at the Afriart Gallery in Kampala in 2021. That same year, the artist participated in a curatorial fellowship supported by Newcastle University, United Kingdom; Makerere University in Kampala; 32 Degrees East; and Afriart Gallery. In 2018, she showed her interactive, collaborative installation Kendu (2018- present) at the Nyege Nyege Ugandan culture and music festival. 


Acaye Kerunen (b. Kampala, Uganda) is known for her multidisciplinary practice encompassing visual art, curation, activism, acting, poetry, writing, and performance. Her multimedia installations incorporate materials— including banana fibre, raffia, reeds, and palm leaves—grown, harvested, dyed, and woven in Uganda, and these works often meditate on the intricacies of natural systems and the impact of climate change. Enactments of labour and emancipation are also central to her work, which has been exhibited at the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022; Afriart Gallery in Kampala in 2021; and the Nyege Nyege Ugandan culture and music festival in 2018. The artist holds a BSc in Mass Communication from the Islamic University in Mbale. Kerunen lives and works in Kampala.