Vector art: During his visit to Uganda, Ne-Yo was blown away by his Ezi portrait. To show his fascination, the international music star shared the portrait on his Instagram account. That is just one of the many accomplishments Ugandan Vector artist, Hillary Mujjizi, also known as Ezi, has achieved. Gloria Haguma caught up with the artist and he gave us an insight into what vector art is all about.
How long have you been doing vector art?
It has been seven years of trying to perfect it, because it is not easy. My art is all self-taught so I am learning each passing day, I keep getting better with each piece I make, and if you follow my social media, you will notice that there has been a lot of evolution.
Why was vector art your choice for speciality?
The world is changing and we are going digital. I believe every good artist can draw and paint but I thought to myself that it would be better to use modern technology.
I wanted to focus on art that will stand out and set me apart as a unique artist. And with the aid of tools such as social media, I have been able to showcase my work, and this has kept me growing over the years. I have done so much work not only in Uganda, but also in East Africa and the world over.
Do you remember the first vector piece you did?
It was the “Jesus” piece and it was an illustration of the Passion of the Christ. I did it around 2014, and to date, it is still my favourite.
Do you still have that piece with you?
Yes. It is digital art, so I have been making replicas of it, which is beautiful. As I said, the beauty of my work is its possibility to be reproduced.
Are you into any other forms of visual art or is it just vector art?
For now, I want to focus on one so as not to disturb my mind because with an artist, the more you see other sources of inspiration, the more you try to borrow more ideas. Therefore, for now, I am trying to focus on this, and it takes up all my time.
Who are some of the famous people you have worked on?
Jamaican artiste Konshens, Ne-Yo, Mr Eazi, South African queen Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Davido, Burna Boy, the Late Moze Radio and so many others.
Who, in your opinion, is the most iconic person you have had the honour of portraying in your art?
All my pieces are iconic but I believe that the one that got the most love was that of the Late Moze Radio. I got so much love from people, plus it was my way of paying homage to a musical legend. I learnt of his passing on while in transit to the Netherlands, so I pulled out my laptop and started on the piece.
Also, the portrait I did for the Kabaka of Buganda, Ronald Mwenda Mutebi has gotten me mad respect from the Buganda Kingdom. I have been stopped before by strangers who just want to thank me, saying they loved the portrait I made for their king and that makes me super happy.
A lot of your art is created for visiting artistes. How do you survive when there are not many international concerts happening?
If you notice, most of the work I present to these visiting artistes is free of charge because this is how I invest in my business. If you get a chance to see my work, you will be influenced to order for a piece.
For now, I am comfortable with paying rent and putting little food on my table. Also, I am in no rush to make money. For now, those celebrities are helping me grow bigger. I believe in the process.
Has your work been exhibited anywhere outside the country?
Yes, it has. I had the opportunity to showcase in Los Angeles, USA where I had travelled for some private work. That is the beauty about my work; it is digital so I do not have to move with physical pieces. Any time an opportunity arises I just print out the work and exhibit wherever and whenever. I have also had some of my work displayed in different places within Tanzania and Rwanda.
Among the international artistes you have painted, whose reception to your work was most humbling?
Yvonne Chaka Chaka! She was very receptive of the work and told me she had never seen anything like it before and she even said a prayer for me.
What are your future plans?
I want to start up a foundation focusing on using art as the basis to bring open spaces and I intend to have exhibitions that will inspire people, especially the younger generation. I also intend to open my own “Mr Price” kind of space, that will be a one stop shopping space for my work and that of other artists. It will also serve as an art school.
The future is about influence rather than status, so my goal is to be impactful in such a way that children will look up to me and say, “Daddy, I want to be like Ezi!”
I am going to change the world; one piece at a time.
Background: His real name is Hillary Mujjizi and he is the third born of five children. He says he had a very rotational childhood growing up and as a result, he partially lived in Bukoto and Kamwokya
Education: Because he was a troublesome child, he attended so many schools. He went to Christ the King Nursery School, Shimoni Primary School, Kampala Parents’ School, St Peters Nsambya, and St. Henry’s College, Kitovu. He completed his education at Makerere University at the Margaret Trowel School of Art and Design.
He says: “I was raised in a family full of love and that played a huge role in shaping me into the man I am today.”