Sandra Suubi: Turning plastic trash into creative art

Sandra Suubi's creation for the Bayimba Festival backdrop. PHOTOS BY EDGAR R. BATTE

What you need to know:

While she was still at the university, Sandra Suubi gained a reputation as the girl who collects trash around campus. A rather odd thing for a student to do, but for the girl with a dream of being an eco artist, this was a means to an end.

If you went to the Bayimba International Festival of the arts, you saw that beautiful orange stage backdrop. From afar it was hard to tell from which material this background was made.

Drawing closer revealed that this was a collection of plastics creatively put together. This was artist Sandra Suubi’s work, work that took her quite some time to put together. You would appreciate that this is more than the conventional art work you would find in art galleries. Suubi’s work stands out because she challenges herself to be distinct from the average artist.

Her art naturally challenges and inspires people to think out of the box and try to repurpose what they might call trash. Suubi’s creative display at the Bayimba Festival of the arts in September was amazing, another utilisation of trash.

She made a beautiful backdrop for the stage on which artistes performed during the three-day festival. It was made of creatively-placed plastic bottles which were shredded and coloured with florescent orange paint to bring out the Bayimba logo.

She did all this work at her home studio in Ggaba and transported them to National Theatre, the venue of the festival. There, she displayed the plastic trash on the stage. Suubi explains that two pieces made from the bottom ends of the plastic bottles supported the 4 x 4 art work.

Making the Bayimba backdrop
This was the artist’s first project, and she says that in order to land this opportunity all she did was ask and she was given the chance to prove herself. Suubi explains, “As I worked on my final project for school early last year, a friend of mine told me about making the backdrop for the festival, something I had really looked forward to doing one day. He encouraged me to ask for the opportunity and I did just that. I went to the Bayimba offices, presented some of my works to them and expressed my interest in creating the backdrop that year.”

When she got the go-ahead she began experimenting with used plastic bottles in her studio.
“I first worked on a lamp shade for home with this particular idea using plastic. When the project was given a green light by Bayimba, I knew that this was the idea I wanted to carry on but in a different form and larger size,” she explains. She called it “The Bayimba Logo 2013”.

It took her three weeks to complete it. She used a lot of this time to collect as many plastic bottles as possible. “I worked with my brother, Enock Kalule, to collect the bottles, on the street, dustbins all over campus, parties, church and so many other places. All my aunts and uncles were part of the used bottle-collection team. In fact some of my friends keep saying campus is now dirty because I left,” the young eco-artist explains how she got the materials.

Beyond the backdrop
Making the Bayimba backdrop must have been a fulfilling moment, for when she formed her company, Suubi Creations, her main dream was to work with what she calls “trash”. “I knew I could turn it into beautiful artistic concepts and later on items,” she says. She adds that to her, art is a lifestyle and a platform for creativity. And yes, she is utilising her chance to creatively portray messages and celebrate uniqueness. “I am an eco-artist. I work a lot with what might be considered as trash, reuse it to create beautiful art pieces,” she summarises her work.

Her love for art started when she was much younger. “I used to create all sorts of arty stuff for my family, and some were for sale because I believed they were that good. I designed a restaurant in the corner of the dining room with cups made from leaves,” she recounts.

She also recalls that as early as Primary One, she was already getting compliments for being artistic. Whereas her fellow pupils only drew diagrams, Suubi added colour to her work which made her stand out to her class teacher. She adds, “I would re- organise my room around 10 times in a week, which my parents were happy with and found very creative.”

The artist’s inspiration is based on the element of possibility and explains:“When I look at a piece that might seem to have little or no value, I reuse it.” Suubi’s other inspiration is her music. She is one of three members of Xabu, an all-girl group. With music playing in the background, she is able to create different recycled pieces of art, like jewellery, cards and T-shirts.

Suubi recently graduated with an honour’s degree in Industrial and Fine Art late last month at Makerere University. And whereas her contemporaries go out looking for new beginnings, she is already on course to grow herself as a distinct artist.