Questioning the form:Re-imagining identities through zine-making in Kampala, Uganda

Lead Research Organisation: Manchester Metropolitan University
Department Name: Faculty of Education

Abstract

This project draws on research from a project called 'Language as Talisman' that explored
how everyday language can be offer opportunities for creative expression. The team is
composed of PI Pahl and poet Gloria Kiconco, based in Kampala, Uganda. Kiconco is a
published poet and zine maker who has previously run zine workshops for women. Together
with artist Charity Atukunda she will work with two organisations to create zine-making
workshops. Each workshop will last for 4 days. There will be three workshops in total, two in
partnership with the organisations and one in order to prepare for the exhibition. The
resulting zines will be displayed in a travelling library, originating in Kampala and
disseminated via the African Poetry Fund to a library in Mombasa, and poetry library
networks in the UK via the newly created Manchester Poetry Library.
The organisation, 'StrongMinds' argues on its website that depression is one of the most
serious challenges facing African women. Women suffering from depression have very little
support (https://strongminds.org/the-need/). Life is particularly hard for those on the margins
and women and girls face challenges if they are considered 'outsiders' in any sense of the
word. This project draws on the idea of the zine, as a form that can be adapted and
autonomously used by individuals to express themselves. Zines can be about anything; in
this project they will combine poetry and art to be formed in workshops with skilled
facilitators Kiconco and Atukunda. Equipping women with life writing and expression skills is
a key part of this project. Drawing Artvism's vision that women in particular need writing
skills to equip them in life, the project will place creation and autonomy at the heart of its
vision. Our vision is to do that in collaboration with these organisations dedicated to
supporting women.
The project team includes an evaluator, Lisa Damon, who has experience of working with
refugee groups as a researcher, and is currently a doctoral student at the University of
Makerere. Gloria Kiconco is the lead in Kampala. She is a published poet, who works closely
with arts organisations to realise her zines, which are a mix of poetry and art. She has
previously been part of the AHRC funded project on New Enhancements to Enhance Artists'
Livelihood in East Africa (PI Andrew Burton). Charity Atukunda is a visual artist who worked
with PI Pahl on the AHRC funded 'Belonging and Learning' project, which worked with young
refugees in Kampala to create art that would directly speak to policy-makers. The team will
be led by PI Pahl, drawing on her experience of co-production, and includes Co-Investigator
Su Corcoran, who has developed strong links with organisations within Kampala through the
'Belonging and Learning' project, and researcher McMillan, a poet, and Kratz, who is
working in the field of poetry libraries. The project will create a new travelling library of zines
that speak to express the creativity of women through poetry and art.

Planned Impact

The project will impact on the people who attend the workshops and each workshop will
involve around 10 people. The first will be conducted with the mental health organisation,
StrongMinds. StrongMinds propose to involve women, some from refugee backgrounds,
who are part of their therapeutic invention programme. They will be aged between 18 and 30
and will be in and/or out of education. The second will be in partnership with ArtVism
Uganda, and will involve women who belong to marginalised groups. The third will be
concerned with directly working on the exhibition with the participants. The two organisations
will co-direct and guide those who will be involved in the workshops with Kiconco.
StrongMinds will conduct their own evaluation. They will assess the women before they have
experienced the first workshop, which will be just after they have undergone therapeutic
interventions, in late April. They will then assess them after the workshop and document
their progress. This will help the organisation understand the efficacy of art projects to
mental health in a small-scale qualitative study. This will be their way of assessing impact
and will form secondary impact from the project.
Once the zines are made, a workshop will involve a curation period, together with an
evaluation period, which will lead to evolving decisions about an exhibition. Co-curated with
the participants, this will be a travelling zine library. The zines made will be printed up in
multiple copies and accessed into further poetry libraries across the world with the aid of the
African Poetry Book Fund. They have made a link to the Mombasa Poetry Library, a newly
created library, who will gather the zines from this project in their archive. We will also link
with the UK Poetry libraries network via the support of Martin Kratz, researcher on the
project and project lead for the Manchester Poetry Library.
The evaluator, Lisa Damon, will reflect on the process and the workshops as they unfold,
and look at how the form of the zine has been used to express certain ideas, autonomous
thoughts, and creative processes. She will document the process in a diary/catalogue. Her
thoughts will be made visible through a printed version, anonymised, and illustrated by visual
artist Atukunda.
Manchester Poetry Library will access the zines into their collections. StrongMinds will
evaluate the impact of the project on their client group. Lisa Damon, evaluator, will reflect on
the project and produce a field report (anonymised) about the process. The zines and this
document will be accessible through the Manchester Poetry Library website. The Mombasa
Poetry Library will access the zines into their collections and store them on-line.
The long-term impact of the project will be assessed through i) StrongMinds who will
conduct an evaluation of the improvements of the women who attend in relation to their
mental health and ii) Lisa Damon who will explore the extent to which the zine as form was
able to enhance free expression of complex identities. The libraries will assess the interest in
the zines through their measuring of traffic on the websites and enquiries about the zines

Publications

10 25 50