The Collect Fair is dedicated to modern craft and design, with artists represented from over 25 nations, from Sweden to Uganda and Japan.
Last Friday, I took part in a panel discussion at Collect called ‘Into the Client’s Hands’, alongside Isobelle Boltt from Artsy, Sophie Rochester of Yodomo and arts advisor Ben Williams, hosted by the Creative Director of the Crafts Council, Natalie Melton.
The joy of a handcrafted piece of furniture, object or artwork is that no two are the same.
The artist who stood out was Sanaa Gateja.
Sanaa Gateja is a Uganda-based artist, designer, innovator and social entrepreneur. In his practice, he uses unconventional materials and a sophisticated process that is community-based. He is interested in notions of African nature and culture, and how to reconcile them with creativity and innovation.
Trained in jewellery design in Florence and London, Gateja founded Kwetu Africa Art and Development Centre in Jampala twenty years ago with the remit to research and create using easily available materials, and to train rural communities in skills that would enable them to generate income for their families.
His idea to make and use paper beads came from finding, when at art school in London, a piece of jewellery made from paper from the first World War.
Through active social entrepreneurship, Gateja went on to train and organise communities of paper bead makers. This has spread through East Africa and has become a signature craft, providing livelihoods to as many as 50,000 people, especially young women.