Leilah Babirye

Leilah Babirye


This catalogue presents the Ugandan artist Leilah Babirye’s multidisciplinary practice of transforming everyday materials into objects that address identity, sexuality and human rights. Babirye’s sculptures are composed of debris collected from the streets of New York. They are woven, whittled, welded, burned and burnished. Describing her practice, the artist explains: “Through the act of burning, nailing and assembling, I aim to address the realities of being gay in the context of Uganda and Africa in general. Recently, my working process has been fuelled by a need to find a language to respond to the recent passing of the anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda.”

Babirye often works with found pieces of wood and refuse. We allude to her approach through the cover material, which evokes cardboard packaging, and the simple cotton thread binding, which echoes the wire used in one of her works. The inside materials are not glossy but textured — even the plates section is printed on uncoated paper. Inspired by Babirye’s process — she sometimes uses a chainsaw to sculpt wood blocks — we laid out the essay texts as two separate stacks with strong indents. The vertical folios and interview initials subtly reference the chains with which the artist often adorns her sculptures. The typeface in use is Tom Baber’s Quarto, which was an early release of Fold Grotesque, now available at Colophon.

Leilah Babirye film

Publisher: Stephen Friedman Gallery & Gordon Robichaux
Editors: Gerrie van Noord, Jonathan Horrocks and Tamsin Huxford
Contributors: Lauren O’Neill-Butler, Rianna Jade Parker