By Nathan Kiwere
Denis Rubangakene lives and works in Gulu Town. He is a man with dreams and not afraid to talk about them. Some of his ambitions include becoming a professional visual artist, setting up an art gallery for which he already has a name (Nyangkai Art Gallery), starting a family and embarking on supporting other young people to achieve their dreams.
He has summarized his dreams on a single sheet of paper using simple outlines, colour and illustrations. He keeps this paper on his bedroom wall as a reminder about his destiny. Rubangakene has already achieved some of his dreams, with no doubt the rest will also fall in place. He is a microcosm of many such stories of people whose lives are being changed using a simple tool. But he neither studied this technique in school nor watched it in a movie.
He got inspiration from the first time he participated in an Affirmative Art workshop three years ago courtesy of Eirik Jarl Trondsen and company. Trondsen is a Norwegian artist-cumactivist who has cut his charitable teeth in Africa. He has spent the better part of the past seven years crisscrossing the region on mission to illuminate the visions and destinies of many through his tool called Affirmative Art, aka A-Art.
Affirmative Art changing lives
The story of A-Art is about Trondsen’s actual life experience as an individual and as an artist. It is a story which he has lived and experienced with his associates. He is now sharing this experience with the rest of humanity.
It is a story about how Trondsen has applied Affirmative Art in society to help particularly the youth to achieve their dreams in life. In society today, many people are questioning the purpose of their lives – the choices they (have to) make.
Many people are trying to find purpose in life without success. Even the most affluent societies are not spared. For instance, available statistics show that the suicide rate among Japanese young people is at its peak in the last 30 years.
In 2016 alone, over 250 deaths were registered and the main reason cited is uncertainty about the future. Having worked for 10 years with an international charity called Care in Kenya, Trondsen realised their community interventions were fundamentally flawed. “We forgot that individual beneficiaries and communities had their own paths.
In the name of speed, resources and efficiency, we designed development projects without consulting first. The result of such actions was failed aid,” he recalls. Trondsen has, since resigning from his lucrative job more than a decade ago, worked towards correcting this omission, often using his personal resources and sometimes with the support of other organisations and individuals.
“My dream is to see others live theirs; I have seen so many change course and take charge of their future after participating in these workshops,” Trondsen says.
He recalls how he recently passed by Mbale Town and saw something that captured his attention. It was a big building that bore the name “Felipe School of Art” which instantly reminded him of a participant in his 2016 A-Art Tour in Mbale, who had a dream of starting an art school under that name.
Reaching out to continents
Since its inception in Africa, A-Art has had activities in Kenya, Uganda, Ukraine, Norway, and the United States, often in conflict-prone areas. The initiative enables participants to seriously consider their dreams goals and hearts’ desires, and not necessarily what their families, teachers, bosses and society-atlarge say.
Activities are always conducted in groups. More than 100 workshops with thousands of participants have benefited by defining whom they are, what their dreams are, and how to make it a reality. December 2019 was dedicated towards the A-Art East Africa Tour, stretching from Goma in eastern DR Congo, Rwanda, through Uganda to Mombasa, Kenya.
The tour is running under the theme: “Opening the mind of a young person.” The main objective of these tours is to enable youth acquire selfdetermination, techniques which will help them in their personal, social growth and realise their dreams.
It is an established fact that young people in all countries are both a major human resource for development and key agents for social change, economic development and technological innovation.
Trondsen worked with other members from around the world, including Fabio Tedde, a professional musician, pianist and composer. “I have been following my dreams; music, photography, helping others, art projects and others since young age. Now my dream is to inspire as many people as possible by using my own experience as an example since I’m a living proof that we can also make a living by following our dreams,” Fabio said.