Acaye Kerunen (she/her) is a multidisciplinary performance and installation artist, storyteller, writer, actress and activist based in Kampala, Uganda.
She graduated with a BSc in Mass Communication from the Islamic University in Uganda, Mbale and obtained a Diploma in Information Systems Management from Aptech.
Acaye was the Assistant Director on the Volcano Theatre production of Goodness in Canada in 2012 and is the founding Director of KEBU Theatre. In 2012, Vogue Italia Magazine featured her as one of the social activists Africa should watch closely. Since a young age Acaye has also been an actress and has performed in productions such as Silent Voice by Judith Adong. Her poetry and musical theatre, which was published under the same title in 2006 - DAWN OF THE PEARL have received public performances at the National Theatre in Uganda, and the Phoenix theatre in Kenya, launching her career as a director/producer/composer. Acaye has written stories for publications including the Ministry of Education, Bayimba Productions, and FEMRITE Uganda. She also writes for various online and print media, both locally and internationally.
Raised by her single mother who was also an artist, shaped her world view to become woman-conscious. The maternal values transferred from her mother are evident in Acaye’s work ethic, which involves multitude collaborations with women, some in transition from domestic violence, poverty or internal displacement to women who are struggling to find outlets for their inherent creativity.
Acaye Kerunen’s installation and multimedia works speak of a strong conviction in Ugandan women’s empowerment through the indexical collaborative work made with local craftswomen, which are orchestrated by Kerunen into installations that question the scaffolding of fine art versus craft as predicated by western art traditions. She does so in order to illuminate the centre of creative gravity that emanate in her sense of place and context, which is not predicated on western doctrines of creativity. In addition, her works are the result of performance, collaboration, social work, environmental consciousness and addressing authentic creation as lived experience. Her overall artistic practice also brings into question the sympathetic views of western liberal feminism formed from laissez faire capitalism and consumerism which she finds challenging to translate into versions of African feminism that are applicable to other values and different outcomes close to the truer realities of African women.
Acaye’s installation work employs hand stitching, appending, knotting and weaving with natural fibre. These are all tasks Acaye watched her mother employ in her work - from embroidery, to needle work to hand stitching garments. She grew up at a time when the landscape of Kampala was fast changing from lush and green into a concrete land. Earth-consciousness is at the core of Acaye’s work, especially with regards to how the land can continue to feed and sustain a populous, both holistically and practically.
In 2018, Acaye installed an interactive installation titled Kendu, a womblike structure made from locally sourced barkcloth at the Nyege Nyege Ugandan culture and music festival. The installation prompted people to reflect on their relationship to regeneration and origin whilst being nurtured with locally sourced refreshments prepared by the artist.
More recently, in 2021, Acaye participated in a self-led online Dance fellowship with the Saisan Foundation of Japan. Under a curatorial fellowship with New Castle University, Acaye also debuted her first solo exhibition “Iwang Sawa” in Kampala to much acclaim, which focused on reinstalling artisan craft made by women of the local and regional Ugandan communities as contemporary art.