Slum Festival


The urban population is growing fast in Uganda; from 137 thousand people in 1960 to 1.6 million people in 2012. (The World Bank 2011; Cohen 2004; United Nations 2011). In Kampala there are more than 14 different slum areas, and they cover up around 25% of the city. Roughly about 1 million people are living in these areas that are more than 50% of all people living in Kampala (Exploring livelihoods of the urban poor in Kampala, Uganda 2012).

One of the reasons for the growth of the slums is that the rural poor usually move to large cities, they want to take advantage of job opportunities and improved living standards not available in their previous areas of residence (Glaeser 2011).

Moving to cities is also often the primary method of income diversification for rural agricultural workers (Banerjee & Duflo 2006). Indeed, it can be a very productive move, even for temporary migrants (Bryan, Chowdhury and Mobarak 2011).

However, cities have often been unprepared to absorb expanding populations and provide adequate urban services –housing, sanitation, health, and education, among others– to meet the needs of these rapidly growing new populations. Consequently, migration has shifted the locus of global poverty to the cities, a process now recognized as the “urbanization of poverty” (UN-Habitat 2003a).
Consequently, a lot of people that come to the city end up in the slums.

UN-HABITAT (2002) defined slums as a “contiguous settlement where the inhabitants are characterized as having inadequate housing and basic services”.  Simply put; a slum is a heavily populated urban area of the city characterized by inferior living conditions.

Living conditions in slums are characterized by overcrowding, high levels of unemployment or underemployment, deficient urban services (water, sanitation, education, and health), and widespread insecurity (UN-Habitat 2003b).

Despite the fact that more than half of the populations of Kampala lives in slum areas, the slum residents feel that not much is done to help them. During informal conversations people in the slum stated that they feel neglected, misunderstood and isolated due to a lack of skills and no social connections. In other words; they feel socially excluded from the society.

This has several consequences: a lack of recognition and acceptance, powerlessness and ‘voicelessness’, economic vulnerability and diminished life experiences and limited life prospects. Also for society as a whole, the social exclusion of individuals or groups can become a major threat to social cohesion and economic prosperity (Donnelly and Coakley 2002).

Social exclusion is the opposite of social inclusion. Social inclusion is about making sure that all children and adults are able to participate as valued, respected and contributing members of society. Social inclusion reflects a proactive, human development approach to social well-being that calls for more than the removal of barriers or risks. It requires investments and action to bring about the conditions for inclusion (Donnelly and Coakley 2002).

Empowering interventions that target capacity development and skill transfer of both individuals and community groups—as well as meaningful negotiations with institutions, such as municipal governments, which can affect slum peoples’ lives—appear to be the most promising strategies to improve the slum peoples’ asset bases and health. (Sheuya, 2008)

Public art is reputed to be a way of getting different groups of people and communities together to produce meaningful insights, foster peace and create safer and more friendly neighbourhoods. (Clover 2006). By transforming public spaces in some way artists encourage people to meet and interact with each other in new ways. Thus, by creating transitional spaces an art, architecture, design and engineering project may function as a collective practice that opens further democratic possibilities. Public art can ask citizens to become active participants and co-creators of murals,

music events, monuments, festivals, performances. In this way art functions as a vehicle to mobilise citizens around particular values and issues.

Why focus on the arts and  social inclusion?

  • The arts has many benefits for both individuals and society.
  • The arts provide us with inspiring ideas and new meanings.
  • They symbolise aspects of the world, and can express meanings for communities and groups, through for example pictures or plays about important events.
  • Through the arts, children can develop a range of skills, self-confidence, and ways to work better with others.
  • Arts events bring people together.

(Coakley, 2002)

Stern and Seifert (2010) show that art is a powerful tool. Through arts,  people can develop a range of skills, self-confidence, and ways to work better with others (Stern & Seifert 2010 ). Therefore the project sought to motivate and mobilize audiences to become active participants in the processes initiated by artists.



The Slum Festival, began in 2013 with the first festival held in Kisenyi slum on June 27th 2013 ,it  is an annual event with pre-festival programme activities held throughout the year ,culminating in to a one-month arts festival filled with music, street poetry , art exhibitions, face painting, handicrafts, Drama, film screenings and workshops.

The most important goal is social and economic empowerment of socially and economically deprived children, youth and local crafts men and women from slum communities through the arts.

_MG_0397The Slum Festival is a subsidiary of the Street Angels Uganda initiative.

A 10 weeks action research challenge was held in August 2014 to determine the role of the arts insocial empowerment. The research was done together with two Dutch researchers (Julien polet and Nathalie Vennik) under the Dutchorganization 7 Senses

The research interventions and findings were later implemented in the grand finale month of the festival which started from the 21st November to 21st Dec 2014, in the slum community of kabalagala with the 21st Dec as the closing day celebration with an attendance of close to 1000 people


The 2015 festival celebration was held deep in the middle of Kabalagala kikubamutwe slum community.

With an estimate of 2500 participants the festival was filled with engaging activities that were aimed at creating a pleasurable experience for the community. Activities included music, live painting, comedy and drama, art exhibition, social engagement and environmental awareness.


The participation of the community members was a key factor of the festival the fact that the members volunteered as Security extras and ushers; there is a sense of ownership for the festival and unity with members from several slums attending.


The festival as well created an atmosphere for gender and age balance with men, women, old and young taking part.

It is important to note that the host community was very hospitable with no record of violence.


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