ARTIST INTERVIEW: SANE
Posted on August 26, 2013 by Kimberly L. Bryant
To create, for me, is to be part of a meaningful, useful human existence. – SANE
One of Uganda’s burgeoning contemporary artists breaking moulds left, right, and center is Buganda-born painter Eria Solomon Nsubuga (34), who goes by the artist name of SANE. While taking a break from applying brushstrokes on the canvas of his most recent large-scale socio-political collage work, the easygoing artist talked with me about social change and the challenges of making art in Uganda.
KB: Have you found it possible to use your art to create social change in Uganda?
SANE: Social change always starts with a change of mindset… art offers a way for the community to see itself. In our case, however, Ugandans have tried to stifle the incredible power of art by ignoring its potential to effect change. They have not given art sanctity as a discipline, nor as a part of daily life. If we could get the society to recognize, appreciate and celebrate visual art in particular and art (creativity) in general, then that mindset change will be the springboard to using art to deal with other fundamental social issues.
What are some personal challenges you encounter as a Ugandan artist?
Not being fully recognized, appreciated, and celebrated in my own society, even while I may be appreciated outside Uganda’s borders. As such, funding for project based artwork can be hard to find; the private sector is not yet interested in working with visual artists. Our lack of a cultural agenda or development strategy has left us without sound art institutions like galleries, museums, libraries, and cultural centers that promote the relevance of art. In effect there are little, if any, books written about Ugandan art(ists). In general, our society doesn’t understand our art because there is little literary record of it.
Can you tell me about insecurity you experience as an artist?
Many times I have to stop and ask myself, is being an artist a worthwhile way to live? Being an artist is not really recognized or accepted as a useful profession in Ugandan society. For example, to be a doctor and lawyer are much more respected. Things are changing, but the fundamental shift towards full acceptance, celebration, and patronage by the Ugandan people and government is yet to come. As of now we remain high and dry, unfunded, expected to participate as part of the informal sector of society, as self-employed freelancers, without formal structures to support our growth.
How do you deal with the financial aspects of the business vs. your personal creativity?
I have to teach to make extra money to live. In recent years, it has been difficult making a decent living off fine art alone. We have to embrace more techniques and technology to diversify the art products we offer. But this is symptomatic of the underlying industry deficits. Many other professionals also have to struggle to subsist. Many people take up more than one job in order to make ends meet.
Who are some artists who have inspired your work?
Henri Matisse (Fauvist), Andre Derain (Fauvist), Joan Miro (Surrealist), Picasso (Cubist), and Willem de Kooning (Abstract Expressionist)
What about African artists?
John Muafangeyo (Namibia – Printmaker), Jak Katarikawe (Uganda – Painting), Stephen Kasumba (Uganda – Painting), Henry Mujunga ‘Mzili’ (Uganda – Painting), Geoffrey Mukasa (Uganda – Painting)
What are your hopes for the future?
My hope is to fulfill my potential as a Ugandan artist. I would like to be up there with the best African artists on the global stage. But, more importantly, I want to be loved and appreciated here at home. I want to participate in events that change the trajectory of Ugandan art – I would love to part of something that is much bigger than me.