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Kwetu Africa

Added by Richard Busingye

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Sanaa Gateja is the founder of Kwetu Africa Art and Development Centre based in Lubowa, Kampala, Uganda. He started the centre 22 years ago to research, innovate, and create art using easily available materials. He trains mainly rural communities in skills using art to fight poverty.  One of his unique contributions is the innovation of recycling paper into beads in 1990 at his Kwetu Africa Studio Kilembe in Western Uganda. The paper beads have spread throughout East African communities providing a livelihood to as many as 50,000 especially women and youth.

An Artist and Social Entrepreneur Sanaa was groomed into the community work after he worked with the Ugandan Ministry of Community Development from 1968 to 1970. The rise and responsibility in the Crafts sector saw Sanaa representing Uganda as the Manager of the Ugandan Pavilion at the International Expo in Osaka Japan in 1970 after which he immigrated to Mombasa Kenya.

Sanaa started his Art and Design career in Mombasa, Kenya. Opened the first Art Gallery called Studio Sanaa at the old port of Mombasa old town and later to Moi Avenue High Street. He was among the first to exhibit the traditional arts of Kenya, from functional arts of Northern Kenya, Lamu and Somalia to basketry and Jewellery of the East African coast. He worked closely with other pioneer art organizations in Mombasa such as Bombolulu, Mombasa Home Industries and African Heritage in Nairobi.

Sanaa sold the Gallery to return to university and trained as a jewellery designer in Florence, Italy from 1982-83. He finished his studies in London after which he worked within the art and jewellery trade in London for 6 years. He was a member of the British Crafts Council and an active member of Diaspora Artists in The UK.  Sanaa held exhibitions at the African Centre Covent Garden, The Royal Festival Hall South Bank – New Horizons with Diaspora Artists.

To celebrate Uganda’s liberation in 1986, Sanaa held a solo Art Exhibition – The Home Coming, at The Africa Centre Covent Garden. There years later he returned to Uganda and started Kwetu Africa Art and Design centre. Apart from being well known for his contribution in the Design and Crafts circles in the Region, Sanaa is one of the East African Pioneer Artists permanently on display in Uganda and at The National Museums in Kenya and others around the World.

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