Hamad – Artist, Craftsman and Leader at the same time

One of our longest term partners is the Cultural Arts Centre – where Zanzibari artists and Artisans work, exhibit and sell their artworks!
For our first blog in this new series, I’d love to tell you a little more about Hamad, the Director here, who’s also an artist, a craftsman, and about the incredible work that’s been done at CACZ.

CACZ’s vision is to be the leading centre for showcasing Zanzibari art and artists – strengthening local talent whilst developing local and international audiences. That’s a big ambition! But Hamad and his colleagues here are certainly moving in the right direction and he’s already supported so many people over the years towards making a living through their art. Just last weekend, a repeat visitor returned and bought 6 pieces of art as well as numerous smaller items of recycling arts.

If you are new to Zanzibar, you have to make the trip into the centre of the city’s maze of streets, to the Hamamni Baths (well known by everyone!) – or if you’ve lived here forever or a shorter while, come and see how the new display has changed the feel of the place and made it feel even more welcoming!

Hamad had already started his career as an artist whilst at school. Then in 1996 he was able to study art under an arts school called Nyumba Ya Sanaa. In addition to Zanzibari artist teachers, a rotating group of Japanese artists would come and stay in Zanzibar, committed to sharing their skills with the group of young people there.
Teachers there included Kadudu, Salum Muchi, and Hashim from Zanzibar and Arai, Iromi, and others from Japan.
After learning as much as he could at Nyumba ya Sanaa, and starting to exhibit his own works, Hamad moved to Nairobi for a while, and there met other artists, starting to share ideas and develop his work.

On returning to Zanzibar, Hamad was keen to set up something that could help young people who are creative and with talent and motivation, to study the arts. He met with many of the artists in Zanzibar, but after numerous meetings, nothing really emerged.
It wasn’t entirely easy for Hamad now, but just at a low point in his struggle to develop his ideas, Farid Himid and he came together with their ideas and were given an amazing location in the centre of Stone Town, where they were able to start the Cultural Arts Centre, Zanzibar. The energy and support of other artists coming together around the new venture, enabled Hamad to gain new energy and a way forward.

One of the early workshops held at Cultural Arts Centre with a group of volunteers

In 2007 Hamad, through CACZ, began creating and teaching recycling craft items – working on ideas to use the waste paper and other materials being collected by the students from their own homes. Encouraging the students that they can do all sorts of creative things from this waste. Together they organized an exhibition during Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) – and the whole group were able to sell all their craft works! They could now return to learning with a better understanding of the potential for their lives as craftspeople!
Hamad has trained many groups over the years, and here are just a few!

5 years after the centre started, he met Nell, the SEA founder, and SEA became involved helping up-date and revise the first CACZ business plan and developing practical workshops for visitors to Zanzibar – see how the centre looked at the outset!

The craftswomen of Cultural Arts Centre and two students are working on the new decoration of the Centre

In 2013 SEA founder, Nell was invited by Rachel Mutindi, Project Co-ordinator, Re Use Eco lab Initiative  (an Indian Ocean Commission project based in Mauritius). CACZ and SEA were exchanging ideas about recycling craft production and so Mutindi came to Zanzibar and delivered further training to the group at the CACZ.

Two years later, Hamad and his Assistant Director, Kauthur, traveled to Mauritius to exhibit and present the work developed in Zanzibar. The 5 Islands members loved them!

Currently at CACZ, 3 young women, Fatima, Acklam and Zakiya, having learned their trade under the tuition of Hamad, are the craftspeople responsible for the majority of the handcrafted items you’ll see in the CACZ gallery/shop, together with those of a handpicked group of other craftspeople from across the islands.  The Centre goes from strength to strength, but Hamad still makes time for his own painting too.

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