African art graces Sanaa Gallery, Shop on the mall
Posted: February 8, 2013
The Winchester Star
Winchester — Sanaa Gallery and Gift Shop is bringing a taste of Africa to the Loudoun Street Mall.
In the two rooms she occupies in the Bright Center at 9 N. Loudoun St., gallery owner Fatima Iddrissu has created a space alive with color and movement.
“Sanaa” means art in Swahili, an appropriate name since all of the gallery’s artwork comes from Tanzania. That is where Iddrissu lived until she came to Winchester in August 2011.
“When people come here, I am hoping for them to see the beauty of my country through the artwork and also for them to learn about our way of life through the items we use and the way we dress,” said Iddrissu, who opened the gallery July 23.
Iddrissu’s children, Esther and Sebastian Mogege, came to the United States on an exchange program, and she followed on an investor visa.
The original plan was to set up a gem stone business, which she still wants to do, but that project will take time, she said.
When she arrived in the area, one of the first things she did was visit art galleries in the Winchester area. While she liked what she saw, it occurred to her that she should “bring a new kind of art from what is here just to inject something different into Winchester.”
Paintings, printed and decorated fabrics, clothing, jewelry, and handicraft items fill one room. In the gallery room, which doesn’t have an exhibit up this month, there is still some art on the walls and a few large boards with outlines of African animals ready to be painted by area children.
Large windows on one side of the rooms allow anyone passing through the Bright Center to peek in and see what is on display, which provides a great open feeling, said Abigail Gomez, an artist who will teach art classes in the gallery.
Everyone in the community needs to be exposed to things that aren’t “just the standard still life paintings or watercolors,” and Sanaa provides that opportunity, said Gomez, who also owns Pretty Girl Painting and Fine Arts in Winchester.
“The Tanzanian work that she has in her gallery is just beautiful and expressive,” she said. “It is often different materials. It is not your standard paints.”
Most of the art in the gallery is done in the Tinga Tinga style of art named for artist Edward Tingatinga, who started painting in 1968 in Tanzania, she said. The style has evolved and since spread to other parts of East Africa.
Tingatinga’s pieces were often painted on masonite boards using knives and bicycle paint, which provided rich, brilliant colors, she said. They had lots of rounded or circular elements and a black border around the painting.
“I will focus on Tinga Tinga because it is growing and it is influential in Tanzania,” she said. “I will be showing the different sides of Tinga Tinga as we go along.”
Rajuba Duke and Omari Ally, two of the artists whose work is on display in the gallery, were students of Tingatinga, and his influence is evident in their work, Iddrissu said.
Duke’s paintings are colorful and feature elongated figures. Ally’s paintings are “incredibly detailed and colorful” and often feature birds, giraffes and other African animals.
“Even in Tanzania, when you see this kind of work, you know it is Omari,” she said.
As she gets a new shipment in from Tanzania, the artwork she received goes up in the gallery and is for sale, she said. After it has been up about a month, she moves the items that haven’t been sold to the shop.
Other works Iddrissu sells include jewelry with stones from Africa, carved wooden figures in a dark hardwood that is stained black, designs dyed onto fabrics, bowls made from animal horns, and woven baskets.
Initially, she only planned to focus on African art, but as she has got to know the community and met more artists, that concept has changed, Iddrissu said. She would like to showcase local young and unknown artists.
Encouraging art in all its forms is important to Iddrissu, who supported artists in Tanzania. When she decided to open the gallery, she also knew she wanted to offer art classes, especially ones for children.
Registration opens Monday for 10-week art classes Gomez will teach starting Feb. 23. She will offer early morning classes for young children and ones after school for those school age.
The cost of the weekly class series is $140 and includes materials.
The classes will focus on art education, not just an arts and crafts project, Gomez said.
“Parents can expect their children to come away from the classes having learned about artists, art history, proper methods for using different mediums, and proper care for your brushes,” she said.
Meanwhile, parents can take advantage of the downtown location to go for a walk or go shopping, she said.
Iddrissu plans to offer monthly weekend sessions for adults and families.
Although not necessarily African art classes, whenever possible, Iddrissu wants to inject an “African point of view” into them, whether it is in the use of color or subject matter.
She also has started an African storytelling time from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. each third Saturday. The next session is Feb. 16.
Although she is not an artist, Iddrissu said she is an art lover and wants to help promote the arts any way she can.
“When I was in Tanzania, I encouraged artists,” she said. “Artists have a very hard life there. They don’t get a lot of encouragement from society.”
Sanaa Gallery, 9 N. Loudoun St., is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturdays. The first Friday of the month, it is open until 7:30 p.m. For more information, call 540-303-8581.
— Contact Laura McFarland at firstname.lastname@example.org