In Absentia

Dearest Supporters of the (Handmade) Revolution,

I hope you're getting excited for the show this weekend! I know I am, from almost 10,000 miles away. Since I can only be there in spirit, I wanted to share with you a little bit of what I'm up to here on the other side of the world.

As many of you know, for the last few years I've had the privilege to work as a product designer alongside Ember Arts, a fair trade company based in San Diego, California, and Kampala, Uganda. I'm in Kampala right now, about halfway through a four month trip. In addition to the serious work, there are also fantastic things to see and do, such as attending the anual goat races. Yes, it's pretty much exactly like it sounds.

One of the best parts of being here for a longer time has been getting to know the local art scene a bit better, such as recycled materials artist Ruganzu Bruno, who recently won a TEDx City 2.0 prize which has allowed him to build a playground out of recycled materials for children living in a nearby slum. This photo below is of a piece of playground equipment prior to its coat of brightly colored paint. It's made from motorcycle tires. You can also see a bit of the wall behind it, made from water bottles that the children and their parents collected from the gutters and trash heaps around their homes. Recycling and litter are fairly new conversations here in Uganda, and it's exciting to see the community get involved. It has been wonderful to see how public art is really taking root here in Uganda, hoping to inspire and create change.

Most days, though, I'm spending time with the women that are part of our partner co-op, NUPECA. These women are using handmade crafts (paper bead jewelry), to transform their lives and their futures. In the past, the only job that was available to most of them was earning less than a dollar a day, pounding rocks in a rock quarry to make gravel. 

These days, because of their hard work and people like you, who realize that everything we buy comes from somewhere, they get to spend their days making beautiful beads like this: 

Learning about good color combinations like this: 

And pursuing dreams like rebuilding their homes (after a war disrupted their lives), opening salons, starting businesses, and sending their children to school:

Though these worlds may seem strikingly different, it is art and community that connect them. Realize that when you support artists and entrepreneurs anywhere in the world by purchasing their wares, you are making a statement in support of creativity, independence, fair wages, and local economic growth. So enjoy the handmade goodness, tell your friends, and be proud of yourself for being a part of the revolution. 

Also... eat some delicious snacks for me. Especially if there's hummus.


No comments:

Post a Comment