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SANE WADU (Walter Njugana Mbugua), 1954



Sane Wadu was born in 1954 in Nyathuna, Kenya. In the early 80's, after completing high school, he worked as a teacher and later as a court clerk. Wadu is a poet and a writer, he wrote plays and poetry.

Sane Wadu began painting professionally in 1985. He used mainly water-colours and household paints on clothing and sheets of plastic. His eccentricity became a subject of ridicule among friends and neighbours and they began to refer to him as "insane", especially since he gave up a secure career as a teacher and clerk in pursuit of painting, which to most was an abnormality. His response to their taunts was to adopt the name Sane which later became his nom de plume.

Later he took up oils and moved from clothing and plastic to paper and canvas. Though he had received no formal training, his creativity and drive quickly secured him a national and international audience. He has had one-man exhibitions in New York and his work has been shown in the USA and Europe.

Formally, Sane Wadu's paintings have alternated between structured single-point perspective and abstract, dreamlike compositions and forms. He has moved between a tight, impressionistic style and flowing, Surrealistic abstracts - sometimes applying paint in constrained impasto,and sometimes in bright, fluid washes.

Wadu's choice of subject matter has also followed a shifting and varied course. Early works often show the wildlife of rural Kenya; hyenas, buffaloes, leopards, and elephants are depicted in isolation in a characteristic wide landscape of distant horizons and soft, muted colors. Though he explains that his inspiration was often the sight of these creatures, the paintings are more than merely descriptive. Placing them in a wild, unpopulated landscape, Wadu says he also pounders the thoughts in the animals' heads.

Sane Wadu paints the bush people as solitary figures, like his wild animals. Alongside camels, sheep, or cattle is the lone herdsman, the solo traveler. United through their labors with the environment in which they're set, the figures confront the viewer with a forth-right gaze and open, naive honesty - attributes paralleled by Wadu's style itself. In conception, his people are no different from his animals.

Just as he works to grasp the consciousness of wildlife, many works are self-portraits in the roles of his subjects in order to attain a closer empathy with the people he depicts. He is the Virgin Mary, the farm worker, the lover.

Currently Sane Wadu lives in Naivasha, Kenya with his family - his wife Eunice Wadu is also an artist, and he regularly conduces art workshops in schools and local community centers.

Since the 90's, Sane Wadu's paintings have entered an urban environment and his compositions have become more abstract. On his increasingly crowded canvases, the figures press forward and outward, their massed humanity laid ever more bare.

source: "Contemporary African Art from the Jean Pigozzi collection", Sotheby's;, "Contemporary Art of Africa", A. Magnin

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