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OPEN CALL: Arts for Civic-Engagement in Okere (ACE) Residency


Arts are a proven immutable cultural institution for the people of Okere. Most relevant to this residency for its capabilities in the preservation of self and communal identity. Prior to the twenty-year war that forced citizens out of their homes and into the internally displaced camps in Lira, arts maintained the cohesion of Okere society through its role of marking good harvests, deaths, friendships, and births by giving reason to gather and bringing joy from gathering as a community. Now dispossessed and disenfranchised, safe but a far cry from the freedom they used to enjoy, it was artists that were most successful in returning a larger sense of self to the survivors. Artists from within the camps, through their own provocation, took up their old community role. Self-taught drummers and thumb pianists went tent-door to tent-door, with instruments fashioned from things they found in rubbish pits, coaxing people out of the traumas that manifest from war, especially its intangible internal violence, often in vain but miraculously so when successful.

Twenty years later, people who 1) still carry the PTSD of war and present it in ways that threaten the new, fragile progress such as rampant domestic violence in family homes 2) had their wealth ( cattle) stolen and are still trembling for sure footing within their new social status 3) disconnected from the social meanings of today such as a) education, illustrated by their 72% adult illiteracy an anomaly for Uganda… b) voting, illustrated by their low voter turnout and their vulnerability to predatory politicians are doing their best to be reintegrated into the fast-evolving national system. Recognizing the universal role of art in empowering individuals with voice and confidence and in appreciation of its success with the people of Okere, we wish to turn to arts again to amplify the agency of the citizens of Okere in the pending democratic future of this nation.

Okere City is an initiative that challenges our ideas of a village, aiming to transform this war-torn region into an exemplary living for African cities. Okere is finding meaning and cultivating a vision like no other: building Africa’s first sustainable rural city. Among others, Okere City runs a series of cultural projects such as Okeme Festival where community members frequently gather to sing, dance, and organize other forms of creative expression to celebrate their traditional cultures and strengthen family and social ties. Okeme is a traditional dance form from the Lango area that is accompanied by music played on thumb pianos. A local restaurant that serves only local foods is also operated as one of the social businesses in Okere City. A local beer club meets every Saturday to not only enjoy the brew but also socially interact with one another and continue with a long-held tradition of community gathering.

Beyond providing tools for strengthening social and community ties, arts are also significant mechanisms for civic engagement in Okere. For instance, local musicians compose songs in praise of local politicians whom they are happy with and vice-versa. Thus, making sure these artistic endeavors are strengthened and expanded to create a more civically conscious and aware local citizenry is critical for community development. As community members, the more ways we have to engage through arts and cultural activities, the more chances we have to save our neighbors and ourselves. Arts and culture offer a powerful tool to take part in community building and that community is what supports us all. And this is the premise of the ACE Residency!

ACE Residency Activities

Together with KQ Hub Africa, Okere City shall offer 5 young artists an opportunity to be fully immersed in Okere for a two-week residency. The artists shall be able to participate in the activities of Okere City which spans health care and educational service operations, sports and cultural activities, leadership and political advancement projects, and business development support service, among others. Moreover, the artists shall also be linked to the local council units other and clan/cultural organs within the community. It is expected that these immersions shall give the artists 360 degrees view of what artistic projects they shall be able to create either individually or together with the community. Among others, these outputs should ultimately facilitate public discourse and/or debate on civic engagement; inspire community members to become a more active citizenry; inspire local leaders to become more accountable and valuable; and enhance the participation of ordinary citizens in democratic processes.

Disciplines, work equipment, and assistance

ACE Residency program targets young artists seeking the time and mental space to investigate new ideas and deepen existing artistic inquiries to widen civic participation and engagement. Our understanding of art is wide. We welcome writers, thinkers, and curators, and are considering anyone with a deep interest and already well-developed skills in visual arts, writing, culinary arts, composers, musicians, scholars, filmmakers, architects, and more.

Studio / Workspace

Available resources: community hall, library, football pitch, volleyball pitch, netball court, kitchen, gardens, office space, forest.

Fees and support

All accommodation and food expenses are fully paid by KQ Hub Africa. A small stipend of UGX 200,000 shall also be provided by the KQ Hub.

Expectations of the artist

We expect that you shall be engaged in a community project that can be agreed upon at the beginning of your placement. Daily interaction with community members talking about your craft. Leaving behind some sort of legacy agreed upon (e.g., a painting, song, poem, or set of photographs). These should be housed at our community museum and heritage center. At least one blog of your time and reflections at the farm to be published on our social media and website and engage in social media daily as prescribed once you arrive.

Application information

Please send a cover letter and any links to your body of work to: Apply by 20th March 2023.

KQ Hub Africa is a non-profit Media, Art, and Culture organization, plus a creative studio working with and for young people to shape the future of the contemporary Arts & Culture scene in Uganda. KQ Hub works with the next generation of young cultural and artistic movers from across visual, performing & digital arts — to inform, inspire and co-create new artistic & cultural experiences.

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