22 August 2017

Uganda: Former Soldier Finds Gold in Arts, Crafts

Mbale — Mr Fabian Mawuso, a soldier, quit the army to venture into painting and making crafts in 2002. He had served in the army for 15 years.

"I realised my calling was in arts. I decided to request to quit after years of contemplating to build my dream as a successful artist," he says.

Mr Mawuso, 39, says after leaving the UPDF, he shortly joined Uganda Heroes magazine, where he worked for more than 15 years as a cartoonist.

A primary seven dropout who joined the army as a kadogo, quit in 2009 to setup his own gallery, with the initial capital of Shs100,000.

"I started with the little money I had. I never wanted to put myself under pressure of looking for more money, which I did not have," the father of one explains.

With that capital, he says he painted two pictures of two army officers under the rank of brigadier in the UPDF which fetched him Shs5m. This was a turning point for his dream career.

"This was a big boost for me to dig deeper into the business of art. I have no regrets because I am doing what my heart had longed to do," he says.

Thirteen years later, Mr Mawuso has seen his business expand tremendously.

"It's now my job and I have managed to train others to paint and make crafts. It's a viable business," he notes.

He adds: "With the rampant unemployment rate, talent building among the youth is essential, especially when they are still young," he says, adding that if he had started practicing his talent at a tender age, he would be better-off today.

Training others

Mr Mawuso says he collects and trains street children from Mbale Town as a way of rehabilitating them.

Through interaction and working together, he has found many of the street children to be very intelligent and creative.

"They are very intelligent and creative. They draw paintings about interesting subjects and objects in a style that beats my imagination. They impress me," he states.

He adds that one of his students impressed him after he painted a picture of Karamojong men herding their cattle that earned him more than Shs500,000 in sales.

"This is real business. I sometimes regret why I joined the army at first,' he says.

His paintings cost between Shs100,000 and Shs2m while crafts, especially African wear, cost between Shs400,000 and Shs1m.

Some of the crafts he makes include: shoes, bags, clothes all made out of African print, earrings, bangles, necklaces and sign posts.

Profits

Mr Mawuso says he earns between Shs5m and Shs8m from the business per month.

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