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Dr Ssebunya earns off his pencils

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Enock Ssebunya graduated with a Bachelors of Medicine and Surgery from Makerere University in 2019. He worked with several hospitals until he decided to follow his passion, art, from which he is making a living. He narrated his business journey to Lilian Ntege.

Ssebunya hands to the Minister of Health, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, a portrait of her that he drew

Starting business
Ssebunya has spent over 22 years in drawing artistic portraits, but he only started earning from it while in his first year at university. To him, art is a stress reliever and hobby. It only takes him between eight and 36 hours to complete an art piece.
He first got appreciated while in primary two when he displayed his art pieces at a Plan Uganda event.
He says this kept him focused, and he drew more art pieces of plants, animals and cars. He also used to mould various objects out of clay, as his parents always kept him motivated.
Ssebunya says he has drawn over 400 portraits including those of prominent people in Uganda like President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, Hon Dr Jane Ruth Acheng, Hon Robert Kyagulanyi, human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo, former Vision Group CEO Robert Kabushenga, artistes like Rema Namakula, among others.

A portrait of President Yoweri Museveni Tibuhaburwa, drawn by Dr Ssebunya
A portrait of renown Human Rights Lawyer, Nicholas Opiyo, drawn by Dr Ssebunya


While drawing portraits, Ssebunya says he requires photos from his clients first before making a sketch.
He says: “All I need is a pencil or pen, then I plan my work. I usually do sketching, which takes around 10 minutes and finalise with framing.”
He gets most of his clients from social media especially Facebook (EnockArts), Instagram and Twitter. His clients also refer more customers to him.
Ssebunya sells his portraits depending on size and texture. Pencil work ranges between Shs 50,000 and Shs 80,000, while pen work is sold between Shs 90,000 and Shs 110, 000.
His best drawings are inspired by life and humanity. He says the experiences that people go through in life can be best explained when drawn in form of art.
As he narrated, he picked up a drawing of a woman wiping tears from her eye. Holding it firmly, he explained that life is journey and some people’s experiences are more inspirational.
His other favourite portrait is that of Nicholas Opio, because of his activism about human rights in Uganda. He regards him as a role model.

Family portrait drawn by Dr Ssebunya (Photo/Lilian Ntege)

Achievements
Ssebunya says through art, he met his wife.
“She made an order of an art pierce and as we proceeded with conversations, we realised we had a lot in common and ended up together,” he says.
He regards this as an achievement because he believes if it was not for art, he would never have met his wife.
He also says he values art because it has been his major source of income since he joined university.
He is able to make a sale at least every day, which enables him maintain a comfortable life.

Challenges
He says some clients fail to pay even after their work is finished, and this at times slows down his business.
He says: “Materials are expensive, yet some clients order and fail to pay after I have drawn their portraits. Some of them tend to pay less money, which becomes costly on my side.”
Ssebunya also is challenged by inadequate capital, making it costly for him to stock materials according to demand.
He also says he has to deal with the fact that most Ugandans have not yet appreciated art and, thus always offer less money.
The social media shutdowns in January, 2021 negatively affected his business sales given that these platforms are his major advertising tools.

Future plans
Ssebunya says he is planning to open up an art gallery where he can showcase his work.
He says he is also looking forward to enrolling in an institution for a professional arts course.
He dreams of forming an association that unites artists in Uganda.
As we conclude our interview, he states that he wants to invest in an arts stationary, which will be a one stop centre for all drawing or painting materials.
He advises young people to not neglect their talents because they are God given, and make human beings unique. He says when talent is given time, it ultimately becomes rewarding.

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