Born in 1950 in Kisoro district, western Uganda, Saana Gateja is a painter, mixed-media artist and jewellery designer who is widely known for his signature incorporation of recycled man-made waste materials in his practice, particularly his pioneering fashioning of beads from discarded paper, which earned him the nickname ‘The Bead King’ in Uganda.
A social commentator, Sanaa works with barkcloth, paper, raffia, beads, wood, and banana fiber to construct large experimental abstract artworks that respond to the subject of nature and materiality which is central in his work. His work straddles the categories of installation, tapestry, installation, and sculpture, and definitively is arresting in its monumentality, array of color and subject matter. The artist is particularly drawn to aesthetic and value in his work: creating a balance between what is visually attractive and original.
Sanaa’s art fits appropriately within the global consciousness of contemporary times that highly regards the environment and its preservation. This is because of his work ethic that involves working with organic and synthetic material. The paper bead, which he’s mostly known for, and introduced in Uganda in 1990, not only responds to the subject of recycling but offers sustainable incomes to thousands of local women across the country.
With words of a wise man, he says: “Life is a journey with a purpose. The message I bring is visually African. The themes I present are universally human…”