Street Artist Uses Art  and Current Politics to Afford an Education
Hassan at work.

Street Artist Uses Art and Current Politics to Afford an Education

Nasser Hussein, like many of Kampala youth not blessed with a welfare system that takes care of adults in the same situation in the West, struggles to make ends meet.

By Enoch Mutabaazi
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First published: February 24, 2006

"Is some one giving birth on the street or what?" a lady inquires in earnestly with no one caring to answer. As she rushes mumbling (to herself) to find out what was going on, she attracts more people to follow.

Close to thirty people are surrounding a 16-year-old Kampala street artist. At the moment, two men are lined up to have their pictures drawn. After five to ten minutes, the two men walk away with their portraits well shade and the artist, Nasser Hussein a primary seven-leaver bags 6000 thousand shillings.

With no one among the crowd willing to have his or her picture drawn, Nasser embarks on his practice, shading President Musevenis portrait he had started earlier on.

Crowd gathers around Hassan
Crowd gathers around Hassan.

The visibly stunned crowd surge in to take a look of perfectly drawn portraits of all the presidential candidates Nasser has put on display prompting the security personnel manning the verandah (where Nasser operates) to ask him to leave because the crowd was disrupting business.

Like other boys, Nasser has no working station apart from pitching camp on verandahs where he is always chased from because of the crowd he attract. Once given opportunity to operate on some ones verandah, Nasser says that he has to make better use of it and draw as many pictures as possible before the idle crown comes around. Interesting to the on-lookers is the genius and mastery of art at tender age that Nasser possesses with out training.

Nasser now steals a few glances at a man posing for him and starts drawing his portrait.

Armed with an art pencil and a manila paper, Nasser embarks on his work with a combination of speed and accuracy that he does not have to rub or waste the paper, which he complains is very costly.

Nasser, a former student of Mengo Primary School says that he has been raising his own school fees from his artwork. He attracts more admirers than customers but cannot ask them to leave since among them are many potential customers. And besides, occasionally some one in the crowd pulls a one thousand note or coins in appreciation of his talent. On average, Nasser collects about six thousand shillings per day.

Hassan's letter asking for help in his education
Hassan's letter asking for help in his education.

"Art wange muzaale sasoma musome-(I have never gone to school to study fine art, it is just a natural talent)," he responds when I inquire where he studied his trade. The shy looking Nasser is a resident of Mengo, a Kampala city neighborhood.

Like Nasser, Moses Kagga 14, who operates along Luwuum Street says that he never went to school to study fine art. He says that he started drawing in primary two and has never looked back since. Although Kagga seems more of a cartoonist, he still draws fabulous pictures. His dream is to save more money and return to school after dropping out in primary five. Kagga admits that he is reaping big from the political craze going around the city.

"Many supporters of various presidential and parliamentary candidates in the city have been buying portraits of the candidates," says Kagga who collects campaign posters for candidates and draws better and natural pictures.

Boys like Nasser and Kagga earn a lot of their money through appreciation of their work and talent and they have a potential future if helped and guided.

By Enoch Mutabaazi
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First published: February 24, 2006
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Enoch Mutabaazi is a media practitioner at Ultimate Media Consult with more than six years experience in the print and electronic media. Since he majored in Broadcast Journalism at his graduate studies Mutabaazi first worked as a reporter at Uganda Television (now Uganda Broadcasting Corporation TV) before he discovered his multidimensional skills in writing and public relations at Ultimate Media Consult. He is currently the Production Executive at Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd and writes occasionally.