Ruganzu Bruno Tusingwire, an eco-artist from Uganda, is turning thousands of plastic water bottles into an amusement park for children, an idea he first started exploring as a student at Kyambogo University.
Orphaned as a child, Tusingwire is committed to creating environments that support healthy childhoods as an artist and community organizer. So what’s his take on how to engage and empower the children of his home country? Play.
Tusingwire became the first City 2.0 Award recipient of 2012 at the TEDxSummit in Doha, Qatar, where he pitched his plan to turn thousands of plastic water bottles into an amusement park where kids growing up in the slums can play and learn.
Children in Uganda so deserve the physiological and emotional lift of having a good time. In addition to the well-known scourges of poverty and a lack of access to adequate education, a mysterious brain disorder dubbed “nodding disease” has afflicted thousands of children in Northern Uganda. The disease leaves children physically stunted and mentally disabled and experts still have no firm answer as to what causes it.
Being witness to this kind of suffering has led Tusingwire to rethink his approach to his calling: “I shifted from doing artwork to just hang on walls, having little influence on society, to doing art that solves community needs. It’s helped me realize my value to society.”
The seed for the amusement park was planted when Tusingwire got involved in eco-art as a student at Kyambogo University. He began meeting other local artists, and together, they made work out of a rampantly available and strikingly inexpensive material: garbage.
“Art is unifying,” Tusingwire explains. “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.”
Tusingwire was the lead organizer of the first ever TEDxKampala, which focused on the ways in which local artists of all kinds could leverage recycled materials as content for their art. It was a powerful gathering, strengthening the community of those already engaged in eco-art, and bringing new artists and environmentalists into the fold.
In 2013, thanks to the City 2.0 award, Tusingwire was selected to be an Environmental Artist in Residence by the McColl Center of Art and Innovation in Charlotte, North Carolina. Most recently, he was recognized as TEDxChange Heroes at TEDGlobal 2014 and recently traveled to Denmark to collaborate with two Danish artists on a project about art and conflict resolution called WHAT’S EATING YOU? which exhibited in schools in Copenhagen.
Transforming thousands of plastic water bottles into a park where kids can play and learn.
Ruganzu Bruno Tusingwire is a 29-year old eco-artist from Uganda as well as the founding curator of TEDxKampala. In addition to being the winner of the first City 2.0 Award, Tusingwire is a 2011 Young Achievers award winner and a lecturer in the Department of Art & Design at Kyambogo University. His big idea is to use waste materials to create a movable amusement park for children living in slums of Kampala. He is using the City 2.0 Award to grow his local TEDx community, grow an woman eco-artist loan program already supporting 15 women to develop their business ideas, and expand the amusement park from a single plane-shaped sculpture made of recycled plastic bottles into a permanent park.