African Talented Artists: Turning paper into life

African Talented Artists: Turning paper into life

Turning paper into life.

By Olive Eyotaru
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First published: August 13, 2007

To most people, the mere mention of the word paper in reference to fine art leads their brain to think of drawings. But to the two sisters, paper has never been restricted to drawings in art. The creativity of Rachael Nakakande and Sina Nanfuka brings the 'dead' material to life through art. The sisters, who own African Talented Artists, on Ggaba Road in Kampala have found use for the papers that usually litter our city, they turn the rubbish into mouldings that ooze beauty.

Despite working from a rather dilapidated makeshift kiosk, the art inherent in these sisters can make you scramble out of a taxi to touch (if you do not have enough money to buy) their products. I was not an exception. On my way to Kabalagala, the semi-finished mouldings of a giraffe forced me to tell the taxi driver to stop. "Mumaso awo (leave me here)," I told the driver.

Outside the kiosk, Nanfuka was 'massaging' the giraffe moulding and adding extra paper, holding it together with cassava glue. Nanfuka, 28 says that they mainly deal in mouldings. This is a snap shot of my conversation with her.


Olive: This is beautiful. Did you study this kind of art in school or is it in your genes?

Nanfuka: I learnt the art of mouldings from school. I went to Old Kampala Secondary School and continued my A' levels at Aggrey Memorial Secondary School in Bunamwaya (near Kampala) from 1996 to 1998, where I did more refined fine art.

Olive: And then?

Nanfuka: I stopped schooling after completing my A'levels and did nothing much for about four or so years before deciding to put myself in order and make some money. I got tired of whiling away time at home and in this era where salaried jobs are obtained through 'technical-know-who' tactics, I resorted to creating a job for myself. That is how I ended up doing fine art for a living.

Olive: I can see you are here with your sister. Is she an artist too?

Nanfuka: Yes. My love for art prompted my sister, Nakakande Rachel to join. Actually, we have been together in this business from the very start. The business has been in existence for about five years now. 

Self-employed young lady: Rachel Nakakande at work
Self-employed young lady: Rachel Nakakande at work.

Olive: What kind of art do you do? Is it only mouldings?

Nanfuka: As you can see (points to the artworks in the stall), we mainly do mouldings. We also make pots, flower vases, bead necklaces and earrings, as well as masks.

Olive: Who are your customers?

Nanfuka: We have regular customers who come in once in a while to buy beads, pots and a few mouldings. The problem is we may be forced to move to another place because of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) slated for November 2007.

We have a small customer base which supports our business for now. We plan to access a loan from a bank to expand our business and reach out to more customers. We have plans to move to a bigger place in the near future and showcase our artwork. We hope to get a place nearer Kampala city centre that is strategic and makes it easier to attract customers.

Olive: You have been operating for long. Where did you get the initial capital from?

Nanfuka: We did not have any initial capital to begin this business. We started with just a few items like clay for moulding and cardboard and newspapers with which we used to assemble our mouldings. We had only enough money to buy us our lunch.

Olive: You have been here for all the five years?

Nanfuka: When we begun, we were stationed opposite Nsambya Sharing Hall (a few hundred metres away). Later, we moved to our current location (just opposite St. Peter's Primary School, Nsambya).


The process of making a moulding (Giraffe)

Nanfuka first moulds the shape of the giraffe on clay before extracting the clay and building on the shape created. "I make sure that I put some newspapers in between the spaces in order to give it a good shape. After this, I let the model dry in the sun. When it is dry, I then remove the papers stuffed inside the giraffe and start sticking thin card board papers with glue onto the model. After this step, I put the model in the sun to dry again. This takes less then 24 hours. When it is completely dry, I do the finishing on the giraffe with oil paint to give it a glossy and eye catching look. It is now ready for display," she explains.

To an ordinary passerby, it is impossible to believe that such a beautiful piece is made simply out of clay and pieces of paper. But if you are standing right there looking at her make it, you will be able to admit that this lady is truly gifted. She sticks the glued papers onto the model fast and with so much ease, something that would take a learner ages to master.

For the wooden sculptures, Nanfuka admits that she sometimes enlists the help of guys around since she finds it hard to do herself. "You know sculpting out of wood is quite hard and needs a person with a lot of energy, which I sometimes do not posses." But she is quick to add that she carves the smaller pieces.

African Talented Artists' kiosk at Nsambya, Kampala
African Talented Artists' kiosk at Nsambya, Kampala.

Beautiful pots, necklaces and bangles

necklacesNanfuka and her sister also make pots of different sizes and shapes, most times according to their customer's requirements. "Most customers use the pots for decorations at introduction ceremonies and weddings while some order for flower vases for the same functions. The pots and vases are usually purchased in bulk," she explains. The pots, like the rest of the artworks at Africa Talented Artists, are tailor-made. Nanfuka says that if one wants art pieces in bulk, they provide specifications in terms of size and shape. The customer can also specify the time frame in which they want the products delivered.

Olive: Any plans for CHOGM?

Nanfuka: I hope that my products can get me a huge clientele list by then but my focus is not on that. Isn't there life after CHOGM? Anyway, you can help bring me some more customers. My artworks speak for themselves.

Olive: I can see some nice necklaces, ear rings and bangles. Where do you get the materials from?

Nanfuka: We buy the materials from Kampala. We buy the beads and strings from wholesalers in town and do the finishing from here.

Olive: I will go with a pair of ear rings. They are very beautiful. How much can I pay for them?

To find out how these and other items cost, call the NA sisters; African Talented Artists, +256-75 2500959.

By Olive Eyotaru
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First published: August 13, 2007
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Olive Eyotaru Yemima is a graduate of Mass Communication. She first worked with Ultimate Media in 2005 as an intern and returned in 2007 as a features writer.

A Ugandan talented creative writer, Eyotaru now writes for both the local and international media and continues to shine in the media every day that passes.