Afrika Arts Kollective (AAK) is an art organization in Uganda that stimulates social change through art and culture. One of their initiatives is the Glass Works Project. In this project the Afrika Arts Kollective offers young artists in the Kyebando slum in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, the opportunity to create and sell artworks from recycled glass under the guidance of established artists and students. The glass studio also offers the possibility for Afrika Arts Kollective to generate its own income. We spoke to Gisa Brian, Creative Programs Director of Afrika Arts Kollective, about keeping an important project going in the midst of a crisis.
Pioneer in pandemic times
The coronacrisis has had a big effect on green, socially-inclusive and creative projects around the world. Lockdowns, contact restrictions and other measures not only made it harder to work together; it also had a big economic impact on big and small businesses everywhere. Gisa: Luckily, it is still possible for us to continue with all our plans. We have had to re-strategize and develop some new approaches with the community so that we are able to continue with our plans for training courses during these pandemic times. The biggest challenge the Afrika Arts Kollective had to overcome during the crisis was the economic impact. Gisa: “As we reflect on 2020 we are proud of the way we continued pushing forward and were able to complete the expansion of the Ekilawuli Community Art Studio in Kyebando with the support of Stichting DOEN and an independent fundraising campaign. With this expansion we now have the space and equipment to start our trainings in glass blowing.”
During a crisis, pioneers like the Afrika Arts Kollective, offer the community hope and perspective. An opportunity to learn, to work and to create. A chance to build something new. Gisa: “Our project has had a great impact on our community. We continue to offer free training for the community youth in glass recycling and the hot and cold glass process. Our community artists are able to interact with our many visitors from the urban Kampala communities who come to support our artists by purchasing the artworks. With the increased amount of community members in our studio, local businesses such as restaurants and bodaboda riders have seen an increase in their businesses.“
By working together and collaborating with other pioneers, the Afrika Arts Kollective hopes to create even more opportunities . “ We are open to working with other community organizations and this year we collaborated with GiveLove.org and built 2 compost toilets at our studio, using a glass bottle construction. This project created jobs in our community and hopefully will lead to more in the future.”
With the new studio, the Afrika Arts Kollective hopes to make an even bigger impact in 2021. To keep addressing social concerns using the power of art and culture. Gisa: “For 2021 we are concentrating on the growth of our Glass Works Project at the Ekilawuli Community Art Studio. Now with the completed expansion we will begin our training in glass blowing along with the planning and hosting of monthly markets and a larger end of the year glass market showcase event.”
Watch this video to learn what this project means for the local community in Kampala.