Leilah Babirye: We Have a History
Jun 22, 2024 - Jun 22, 2025
Born in Kampala, Uganda, and based in New York, Leilah Babirye is known for her highly expressive, ambiguously gendered sculptures in ceramic, wood, and discarded objects. Reclaiming ceramic and wood-carving traditions from western and central Africa, she hand builds her ceramics, firing them with expressive glazes, while she whittles, scorches, and burnishes her wood sculptures. As a final touch, she adorns them with wire, bicycle chains, inner tubes, and other found metals and materials. The sculptures, which range in scale from towering totemic forms to busts, talismans, and masks, are portraits of her LGBTQ+ community. Babirye’s work speaks to the power of reclaiming personal and cultural identity through artistic practices, historical narratives, and cultural traditions.

This exhibition, the artist’s first solo museum show in the United States, highlights the connection between past and present that is at the heart of our Contemporary African Art program.
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de Young museum
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