Ruganzu Bruno didn’t expect to build playgrounds as an art student in Kampala, Uganda; he just wanted to be the next Picasso. But once he saw children playing on one of his sculptures, he realized that is maybe what he should be doing — or what he had already began to do.
While at Kyambogo University, Bruno built giant artworks out of found materials: plastic bottles, trash, wood. “I realized that there was a lot of trash and rubbish in the city … and it was a material I could just find and pick,” he says in a talk at TEDxArendal.
But soon after Bruno’s sculptures were built, they took on a life of their own. Watching children interact with his artwork reminded Bruno of his youth in rural Uganda, where he’d been imaginative and playful, and inspired him to want to build a playground for kids in Kampala. He recruited artist friends and reached out to local leaders and children, asking what they’d want in a playground.
“[I thought] maybe I could use my community and use the waste that was in my community to build spaces for play,” he says at TEDxArendal. And so he set out to do so, creating an organization called Eco-Art Uganda, with an aim to build mobile playgrounds from trash.
Eco-Art Uganda connected with at a community school in the Acholi Quarter area of Kampala. They asked children to draw their dream playgrounds, and then worked with the community to bring these drawings to life. Bruno wanted elements of the playground to be mobile, so that equipment could be shared between different schools and neighborhoods. A stand-out piece of the first Eco-Art Uganda playground is a plastic plane on wheels, which can travel easily.
Bruno’s latest project is a playground at the Kampala School of the Physically Handicapped. The students drew plans for the park based on the waste around the school and worked with Bruno and Eco-Art volunteers to make their drawings a reality.
“Play is very vital in our lives,” Bruno says. “It is something that we need to return back to our children.”
To learn more, watch his whole talk below: