Connecting with the Sustainable Futures in Africa Network in Uganda

Bosco Chinkonda, our Finance and Operations Officer, attended the Sustainable Futures in Africa symposium in Lira, Uganda in February 2019. These are his reflections from his time.

Ask me for travel advice, I will point you to one James Albert Michener’s words, “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion, and avoid the people, you might better stay home.” Well, that was me! No, not really—I didn’t stay home so I tried the food (I mean literally ate though, who could resist the matoke?); learned as much as I could and upheld the customs (the traditional dances were simply amazing); upheld the Christian values; and interacted with as many locals as possible. I was actually given a new name by our hosts from Makerere University: Bosco Omugezi! You might need to know the story of Bosco Katala for you to understand, I am the opposite! Haha, Uganda! Indeed I travelled.

The trip to Lira, in northern Uganda was more than a journey to an unknown land. It would be an injustice to measure it by the miles covered—of course a six-hour bus ride in the equatorial heat was “refreshing” thanks to the person who thought of air-conditioned vehicles, rock star! I strongly think the journey can only be rightly measured by the amount of learning and friendships developed. Travelling with the group of researchers, educators, and players in sustainable development was so enlightening and thought-provoking.

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We travelled from Malawi, eSwatini, Botswana, University of Glasgow, Nigeria, and Kampala (I can mix countries, cities and names of universities ah ah!) to Lira for the Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) symposium to focus on how we could expand partnerships and initiate the strategic planning process for the interdisciplinary collective. Through the activities, it was encouraging to learn how the network had grown over the years. Seeing how passionate every participant was about making meaningful and sustainable change gave me the satisfaction that I was in the right place as an individual and that ArtGlo had a lot to contribute. One key thing that came out of our discussion was that there was need for more collaborative efforts across hubs.

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It was a lot of brainstorming, learning, and a timely reminder of our strong capacity and continued relevance in development practice as a network. On behalf of ArtGlo I made a brief presentation on “The Adaptability of the Arts in Development Practice,” drawing lessons from our Make Art for Sustainable Action (MASA) programme. Ever had those moments when you just have so much belief in what you are presenting and for some reason you forget that you are supposed to be making a formal presentation? That was the moment for me—I didn’t do what you think I did though, mh mh. The presentation shared the impact of the different iterations of the MASA model, which has participatory arts at its core. It went further to explore the fitness of the model within the SFA objective of building collective understanding and finding practical solutions for socio-ecological and health challenges of Africa.

I am really happy to be part of the Malawi SFA hub where we have started looking into how communities can imagine sustainability through participatory community theatre by exploring the population, health, environment nexus!

You can forget all that I have said, but at least remember and ponder on this question:

What power do the arts hold in development practice?

I leave you with the words of Mia (the network’s co-director) “[SFA] is a big movement to keep up with! ... But through the symposium, we were inspired and motivated to continue and grow with it.”

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