Sanaa Gateja has a long career in the art world behind him. His artistic talent has taken him all over the world, from Osaka in Japan, to Florence in Italy, and on top of that seven inspiring years in Great Britain. However, his trips always led back to his roots in Uganda. He started his career at the Ministry of Culture and Community Development. He began creating his own art and discovered single paper beads by accident when living in London.
– I taught art classes in London and one night I was going through some of the art rubbish bin and found a bead. I asked the class what it was and someone said it was a paper bead. I brought it home to study it, and soon after began making my own beads. I brought the skill with me to Uganda and haven not stopped making beads since then, says Sanaa.
Sanaa says there is a big difference in the accessibility of paper in different parts of the world. When he started using recycled paper as his working material in Uganda, for example, Sanaa found Chinese Propaganda Magazines along the streets of Kampala. Sanaa says they were very colorful and glossy, perfect for making beads.
– In Europe, so much paper just comes through your door without any effort, commercial flyers, advertising pamphlets, etc. In Uganda, discarded paper comes in the form of books or brochures, political posters and calendars that make excellent beads. One time I got a lot of discarded press material from Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign. I made a large tapestry called CHANGE, and in 2010 it was exhibited at the Museum of Art and Design in New York, says Sanaa.