Bruno Ruganzu: Winner of the TED Prize City 2.0 in Doha
On 17th April 2012, in Doha, Bruno Ruganzu was announced winner of the TEDx competition TED Prize for City 2.0 at the TEDx Summit in Qatar. City 2.0 is about creating ideas that can change your city. Innovation, education, culture and economic opportunity were its key fundamentals. Among the five finalists from Egypt, Canada, South Africa and Pakistani, Bruno had only two minutes to raise the Ugandan flag high.
Written by Elizabeth Namakula
Out of the 700 attendees, out of the 300 innovators and 200 motivational speakers, he emerged as a winner with $10,000 as prize money. His winning idea was to create an amusement park for children with an element of education using waste materials like locally available water bottles.
In 2008, TED made available the TEDx brand, a program that enables schools, businesses, libraries or just groups of friends to enjoy a TED-like experience with events they individually organize, design and host. As 2012, TEDx events have been held in over 120 countries.
TED (Technology Entertainment Design) is a global set of conferences and is the organization that makes possible TEDx events. Bruno received his license on 10th March and conducted the competition at Kyambogo University after which he was invited for the summit.
The basic constraint of TED is that speakers are given a minimum of 18 minutes to present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging way they can. “Ideas worth spreading.”
“I convinced the staff at the University to give us space, which they did. I invited different presenters – artists like Ronex Ahimbisibwe and Collin Sekajugo who are known for their innovative ideas – and they came and gave their support. Art is so unifying and it was beautiful creating awareness about local art, spreading the idea and creating a platform for those who wanted to innovate,” Bruno explained.
The award-winning project
Asked when the project will kick off since he was awarded the money, he says he needs to do research and team up with other TEDx organizers like TEDx Dubai for more logistical support.
On winning the award, Bruno feels honored and appreciated. It has reinstated his belief that innovations will always be rewarded and this should inspire other people to be innovative. However, he says it is time for him to think beyond himself and ask some important questions:
“What am I to my country? What can I do as a youth for my community? These are questions we should all be asking.”
On the challenges he has faced as an eco-artist, this is what he says:
“It was a challenge for me as a graduate and a part-time lecturer at Art and Industrial Design, Kyambogo University to be found picking water bottles. A graduate is expected to be doing a white-collar job and not gallivanting trash bins. I lacked the finances. There was no media but just plain faith, endurance and persistence that one day, I would be rewarded.”
His fascination with eco-art was as a result of participation in an arts festival where he also got to meet different artists. His first official public appearance was in the Goethe Zentrum art exhibit of an old soap factory.
However, it was a class assignment that eventually fueled his passion. The assignment was to find a community problem and solve it using art. Bruno – with a few friends – created a leisure center in someone’s compound using waste as building materials.
“As Ugandans we need to manage our own waste. We own this green vegetation and it is our responsibility to look after it. We can use what is around us to create treasure, create employment opportunities and make the environment better. There is a wonderful world of possibilities before us.”
It has been a rough road for the 29-year-old, who is currently a part-time lecturer at Kyambogo University teaching everything from sculpture to painting. His love story with art started when as a senior six leaver, he failed to get tuition to go to university. Having to dodge questions as to why he wasn’t at university pushed him into seclusion where he was forced to put his hands to work. The result was a gift for a neighbor who was impressed enough to help him get a scholarship to do a diploma in education at Kabale NTC.
With a diploma under his belt, he became a teacher in Kabale and Kisoro, where his only affiliation with art was in making sign posts for the people in the village. After three years of doing that, he applied to Kyambogo University to do fine art using his diploma. Among the 600 applicants, he was among the four that were taken.
During his university days, he represented students from universities in the Uganda Art Association. He is also the current secretary of the same association. He participated in different art festivals like the LaBa Street Art Festival, Words and Pictures run by the British Council, and the This Is Uganda festival.
“In the East African, my work was presented alongside Dr.Nabulime, an artist I really admire, and it inspired me to work hard.”
In the This Is Uganda festival, he made a proposal to make an installation. The result was a map of Uganda made out of plastic bottles. Of this time he says that he benefitted greatly from networking with other artists. One cannot underestimate the power of unity:
“It is important for us as artists to work together and not in isolation of each other. It was lonesome to stand on the podium in Doha, being the only Ugandan among different nationalities. It was a weeklong event with plenty of activities like going to museums and doing cultural exchanges; I kept wishing that there had been more of us.’
On how regular he would be organizing more TEDx events, he says he will sit down and research on ideas worth researching:
“I saw a story on Bukedde of someone who was trying to make a chopper. The other day there was a story of a car being made in Uganda. Who was there to tell the stages of all those innovations? I want to visit women and children and to discover all the untapped creativity in this country. But first, I need to plan.”
With such a vast scope, will the $10,000 be enough to cover all that? He says it’s not so much about the money:
‘The money will come in installments and according to a budget. What is important now is to inspire other people. Artists thrive on this for motivation. I want to show possibilities by celebrating my success, hopefully that will inspire them.”
I don’t know about you; but next time I am tempted to throw away a plastic water bottle, I will think of Bruno and the $10,000 prize money. And seriously, I want to visit an amusement park made out of plastic water bottles. Wouldn’t you?
Elizabeth Namakula is a freelance writer living in Kampala, Uganda. Her short story “A World of Our Own” was recently published in the Femrite-collection “World of Our Own”.