The Sane Kenyan: Sane Wadu

Andréa Fernandes

Back at the end of May, I promised to cover 13 artists from 13 different countries in the 13 "Feel Art Again" posts for the month of June. Due to personal issues, I've gotten a little behind schedule, but I'll be working this week to fulfill my promise.

Today's post lands us in Kenya, at the request of reader Christina W., for the artwork of Walter Njugana Mbugua.

1. Walter Mbugua did not begin painting professionally until he was about 30 years old. Mbugua had become a teacher and court clerk straight out of high school. In his spare time, he wrote plays and poetry, but apparently was unsuccessful in his attempts to publish them.

2. Although he was born Walter Njugana Mbugua, the artist is best known by his nom de plume, Sane Wadu. When he left his "secure career" as a teacher and clerk to pursue painting, he was ridiculed by his friends and neighbors, who called him "insane." Mbugua's response was to declare his sanity with his very name; he has gone by Sane Wadu ever since.

3. Wadu has never received any formal training, yet he has become one of Kenya's most well-known artists. His work has been exhibited all around the world, including several one-man exhibitions in New York City. Today, he supplements his income by providing art lessons.

4. Eunice, Wadu's wife, is also an artist. She originally worked designing cloth, but was inspired to paint by Sane, who was already an established artist. They were later married. Together they started a communal art studio where they offer lessons, keep local youths artistically engaged, and sell their own artwork and that of their students and other local artists.

5. Wadu was reportedly featured in TIME magazine in 1997, although the TIME archives don't include Wadu.

A larger version of Wadu's "Prodigal Son" (shown above) is available. Fans should check out this video of Eunice Wadu. "Feel Art Again" usually appears three times a week. Looking for a particular artist? Visit our archive for a complete listing of all 250+ artists that have been featured. You can e-mail us at with details of current exhibitions, for sources or further reading, or to suggest artists.