Sanaa Gateja’s most recent work, created during and influenced by the experience of the pandemic, materializes processes of radical care. Care, here, extends far beyond „being careful‟ or „to care‟. Beginning from the 1980s, philosophers and psychologists have started shaping what has been coined as “ethics of care” or “care ethics”. Grounded in feminist thought, in recent years, it has extended to become a moral and theoretical lens in many other disciplines, such as in political sciences, environmental movements, public health etc.
Instead of drawing upon a romanticizing understanding of care, ethics of care are “(t)heorized as an affective connective tissue between an inner self and an outer world, care constitutes a feeling with, rather than a feeling for, others. When mobilized, it offers visceral, material, and emotional heft to acts of preservation that span a breadth of localities: selves, communities, and social worlds.” (Hobart and Kneese, 2020)
In this sense, Gateja‟s perspective on the world as a whole that surfaces in his new pieces, acknowledges this interconnectedness – including its beauty and myriad opportunities for positive social and personal transformation.
All over the world, both the Covid-19 pandemic and environmental movements such as „Fridays for Future‟ have sparked many ways of rethinking the connection of the individual to his or her communities and eventually to the world as a whole. It has become nearly impossible to neglect one‟s individual impact on the bigger picture and vice versa. Yet, at the same time, seemingly universally applicable norms often continue to influence social and political action. In this precarious climate, acting along ethics of care has become as rare as it has become necessary. Taking a firm stand, like the artist does in various forms in this exhibition, therefore becomes a radical – even political – act.
Dubbed the „Bead King‟, Gateja is much more than the inventor of the technique to create beads from paper waste and the creator of large murals made up of thousands of beads. While also incorporating barkcloth, raffia, wood, banana fibre and other found objects and materials, he cuts across tapestry, installation art and sculpture.
The artist allows the material to speak in its own micro-cosmos and „weaves‟ them into abstract narratives commenting on social and political realities in his home country Uganda. Especially his most recent works call for transformation from universal and mathematical norms towards contextual action. They suggest to think and act within scopes of the individual person, interpersonal and societal relationships as well as considering our relationships with ourselves, and our natural and man-made environments.
Besides large-scale tapestry works, for the first time, this exhibition shows series of smaller and medium- scale works as well as three-dimensional sculptures.