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Bidi Bidi refugees in Uganda anticipate groundbreaking art centre

Posted: Monday, September 11, 2023. 3:28 pm CST.

By Celeste Chang: A piece of land just outside the Ugandan town of Yumbe, where an estimated 200,000 refugees have settled in a community known as Bidi Bidi, is reported to receive a first of its kind performance and arts center, according to CNN.

Within the past seven years, Bidi Bidi has developed into a rapidly growing refugee camp for those who have escaped South Sudan’s civil war to a permanent settlement.

The ‘Bidi Bidi Music & Arts Centre’, which is currently under construction, has been designed to be a low-slung, light-filled brick and steel amphitheatre that also accommodates an acoustic recording studio and music classroom.

Since the centre is designed to have a sleek steel roof it will also serve as a shelter and tts funnel shape will assist in the collection of rainwater for the local community. A tree nursery and vegetable garden will meanwhile grow outside.

The architectural design of the centre was done by the architecture firm Hassell and LocalWorks, which is a design studio based in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

According to CNN “The centre is a rare example of an architectural project dedicated to the arts (rather than immediate essentials, like emergency housing and healthcare facilities) in a displaced community. And it could serve as a model for other settlements.”

Xavier De Kestelier, the global head of design at Hassell, informed CNN that “he hopes the centre will become “a catalyst” for more of its kind. As the global refugee population has soared in recent years, reaching over 35 million in 2022, some temporary camps like Bidi Bidi have transitioned into permanent city-like settlements. With the climate crisis intensifying weather patterns, which can in turn stoke food shortages, the number of refugees worldwide is only expected to grow.”

The Bidi Bidi Music & Arts Centre was devised by the developer To.org. This helps vulnerable communities to have access to critical supplies and improve their quality of life.

According to CNN, after a survey of the settlement’s residents they stated that they wanted their community to be “a place for dance, music and performance,” De Kestelier explained in a phone call with them. Nachson Mimran, co-founder and CEO of to.org, in an email, “Why should millions of people worldwide be denied access to creative spaces simply because they have been displaced due to conflict, climate change or for any other reason?” He continued, “Of course, the answer is they shouldn’t. And critically, there’s the fact that music, art, dance and theatre are firmly established as meaningful forms of therapy for people with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), which is endemic in Bidi Bidi as it is in other refugee settlements.”


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