A multidisciplinary team in Kampala will transform the urban landscape with MatatArt, a mobile educational arts facility.
31 January, 2017
Everyone is familiar with the ice cream van. Whether from childhood memories, or watching movies, the ice cream van, and its unmistakeable melody, encapsulates childlike excitement and wonder. In different countries, the ice cream van has taken on different typologies. In Singapore, the humble motorcycle sidecars selling ‘sandwich ice cream’ are well-loved, though a far rarer sight these days. In Uganda, the ice cream vendor takes an even more modest approach to distribution. Vendors cycle through neighbourhoods on simple pushbikes with a cooler strapped to the back wheel, projecting a tune from a device attached to the handlebars.
MatatArt, a multidisciplinary team of urban planners and educators, saw potential in the idea of a simple vehicle that could move easily into, and between, different neighbourhoods, engaging young people. Based in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, MatatArt are using this concept to introduce the Ugandan youth to something that they have had little exposure to: educational arts facilities.
The team decided on the ‘matatu’ – the most common mode of transport in Uganda – as the vehicle. By taking this minivan as the home for a mobile arts education centre, the group realised they could approach the youth of the community with a welcoming and familiar educational environment. The mobile, all-in-one structure will act as a catalyst for change in the informal settlements of Kampala where more than half the population live and where 55 per cent are under the age of 18.
The design of the van will be transformative, allowing the vehicle to expand, as necessary, beyond its usual physical boundaries and into the urban landscape. This ability for the van to adapt is an important aspect of the design. As MatatArt is planned for use in informal settlements and unplanned communities, it is hoped that the vehicle will show that any public space has the potential for transformation, whether for cultural activities, social engagement or developing a deeper sense of community.
After building momentum with their Indiegogo campaign in the last few months, MatatArt hopes to have their ‘matatu’ on the road by May. With just one matatu, they are aiming to conduct 20 sessions per month, which will reach 6,300 children per year. By creating a structure within which the young people of Kampala will have access to the arts, the team at MatatArt hope to boost the cultural development and social framework in the under-resourced areas of the Ugandan capital.
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