Ugandan eco-artist Ruganzu “Bruno” Tusingwire gave up art that is hung on walls in favor of doing work that actually makes a difference. Now that lofty ambition has received a substantial financial boost that will allow the 29-year-old to improve life for hundreds of children who live in the slums of Kampala.
The first of ten $10,000 prizes was awarded to Tusingwire at the recent TEDx Summit in Doha, Qatar. In keeping with the City 2.0 competition’s philosophy of linking short-term vision with long-term action, the TEDx Kampala founder will build an amusement park entirely out of recycled plastic bottles so that children marginalized by inequality, poverty and war will at least have a safe place to play.
Called Recycled Amusement, Tusingwire’s proposal is designed to not only create a fun play space, but also to draw attention to the city’s enormous waste problem. Albeit not unique among African countries, the city is drowning in waste and the government is moving slowly to remedy the crisis.
A graduate of the Department of Art & Design at Kyambogo University, Tusingwire plans to use the prize money to establish a modest loan program for a group of female eco-artists in the country’s capital. He also hopes to grow TEDx Kampala in order to foster even more beneficial social programs.
Once he switched his artistic attention from the self to the greater community, Tusingwire has experienced a great personal transformation.
“It’s helped me realize my value to society,” he explained during his TESx pitch in Qatar. “Art is unifying. We can use what is around us to create treasure, employment opportunities, and make the environment better. There is a wonderful world of possibilities before us.”
The Kampala resident first became interested in turning waste into beautiful works of art while he was in university. Ready to take up the cause again, he has already completed his first attraction for the recycled amusement park – a funky, colorful airplane made entirely out of plastic.
Artists in the Middle East and North Africa are also turning to recycled materials in order to reduce their environmental footprint and raise awareness. And a taxi driver from Gaza went so far as to build an affordable electric vehicle using found scraps – all of which attest to the ingenuity of humanity even in times of great duress.
Stay tuned for more details from TED and City 2.0.