M. Sani was born in Cameroon in 1975. Cameroon is located in western Africa and often referred to the “hinge of Africa”. The country’s surface is comparable to California with a population of 15 million and has over 240 tribes. In his tribe, the images he painted of people were perceived as imitations of God. In 2000, he left his homeland to pursue his dream of sharing his paintings with the world. Although misunderstood at first, by some in his hometown peers, Sani’s artwork is highly respected in his country. He was selected to represent his State twice at the Festival National des Arts et de la Culture (FENAC), one of the premiere festivals held in the entire country. In 1999, Heather Groth, a Peace Corps volunteer discovered his talent and brought his works to the Festival International de Louisiane. He entered the juried selections process staged by the Artist Alliance and was featured as an international Artist at the Marche des Arts for his American Premiere. M.Sani was then commissioned to create a painting as part of celebrating the Norvegian Missionaries 75th Anniversary of work in Cameroon. This painting is now at their head office (NMS) in Norway. Another work of his was reproduced for the youth Department on NMS as part of the same Anniversary and used at different camp in 2000. The same year, he was selected as the Official Artist to illustrate and paint the commemorative picture for the Festival international de Louisiane in Lafayette. The demand and the positive reaction from the public and critics lead to the Festival purchasing his final painting. After positive reception of his work in Louisianna, M.Sani moved to New Orleans. There he was inspired by the energy of the city and found the opportunity to make artwork. He has been a featured artist for many years at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, winning the award for best display in 2003. He was part of the public art project “Restore the Oaks” initiated by the African American Museum of Art, Culture and History along with Mayor Marc Morial in 2002. He has since shown his work in many states around the nation. In 2005, M. Sani opened his own gallery showcasing his broad variety of paintings and mixed media pieces in New Orleans. M. Sani is a self-taught Artist. None of the schools he attended offered art classes, so he learned how to paint from inspirations around him. When asked were the inspiration comes from, Sani answered, “My inspirations come from my dreams, and sometimes, I just need to observe the nature. Each of my paintings potrays history, you just need to observe and listen.” Sani’s paintings have been described as bold, abstract, primordial. He uses watercolor, oil, acrylic, as well as mixed-media such as wood, glass, paper, canvas, leather, and collage. He also uses clay and papier mache to create forms such as masks. His rich culture and people serve as subjects to his works. Some important themes to his work are the spiritual influence of religions, tribal ceremonies, and music. At home he was known as the “lord of the dance” and it is evident that he still is by his paintings of jazz musicians. After Hurricane Katrina, he was forced to close his gallery. He was persistent with his passion for sharing his paintings with the world and reopened as soon as possible. His current gallery, established in 2010, is in the heart of the vibrant French Quarter.
- Jamie Loren
- Lynn Drury