“As an artist and social entrepreneur I am challenged to create a vision that will give people hope in the good and bad times they go through in their lives. At this point in history, as Uganda celebrates it’s 50 years of Independence, I would like to share my story of how I see the past, the present and the future. In my work I strive to portray this concept of optimism as I believe that Ugandans are on the move towards better things.”
Sanaa Gateja will exhibit outside Design Agenda, Kimathi Avenue, Nakasero.
Sanaa Gateja graduated from the London College of Art and Design in 1985. He started his professional practice in 1968 as the Assistant Crafts Officer at the Ministry of Culture and Community Development, Uganda and in 1970 he participated in EXPO 70 hosted by Osaka, Japan, where he was Manager of the Uganda Pavilion. Between 1971- 1982 he moved to Mombasa, Kenya and opened the Sanaa Gallery before migrating to Italy, where he obtained a diploma in Interior Design. He also taught at the Africa Centre in Recycling and Jewellery Making, and in 1987 he was the Artist in Residence at the Commonwealth Institute in London. In 2010 he jointly exhibited at the Museum of Art and Design (MAD), New York followed by an exhibition at ‘Art gallery in Mombasa’, Diani Beach and the Alliance Française, Nairobi.
As an environmentally conscious artist, Sanaa creates his art by recycling manmade waste materials; a skill he has used in empowering soldiers’ wives and craftswomen across Uganda. He draws his inspiration from his home city of Kampala and explains, “A city flooded with litter is a melting pot for creativity. Artists should look for waste materials in their immediate surroundings, take advantage to experiment with the shapes, colors and textures of ordinary rubbish, and treat the piles of litter as the main source of inspiration.”
Uganda on the Move
‘Uganda on the Move’ represents the Mombasa to Uganda railroad that considerably increased business and development in East Africa at the turn of the century. His container is a symbol of progress and change that creates a bridge between art, commerce and politics.
The project reflects on how Sanaa views the past, present and future of Uganda with a true feeling of expression and optimism. He believes that Ugandans are on the move to better things and is focusing on the experience the people and country has gone through since 1962. He describes, “Back then, the economy was vibrant, Uganda was a third of its current population and it had a good infrastructure and a different mindset.”
Saana translates these feelings through the medium of paper beads which ornately decorate the interior of the container. Ablaze with colour, including the red, yellow and black of the Ugandan flag, he transforms the industrial space into a feast of traditional and innovative art works.
As an artist and social entrepreneur Sanaa explains “my project symbolizes a jewellery box, a treasure trove of innovations and creativity that celebrate and work with ordinary materials. Paintings, costumes and product design will entertain and educate the young, the corporate, politicians and all those fighting poverty in one way or another.”
On the outside the artist creates a series of hanging curtains made from paper beads which decorate the walls and are crowned by ceramic bowls. To the side he has fixed steps for access to the roof where mannequins dressed in outfits made from bark cloth are displayed. Periodically the roof is used as a catwalk for models to simultaneously showcase Sanaa’s designs.
This ‘treasure trove of innovations and creativity’ are a poignant commentary on what the artist believes to be a movement towards development and optimism in a country celebrating its 50 years of Independence.