American Artists train Batwa Pygmies to make crafts from recycled materials

The Batwa Development Program is marketing their crafts locally in a banana thatched hut on the edge of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

The Batwa Development Program used a $3,000 grant from the Special Self Help fund to purchase equipment, tools and materials to support Batwa pygmies in creating signature crafts and works of art as an income generating activity.

The Batwa pygmies were the original ancient dwellers of the exotic Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda. The first records of the pygmies were made by the Egyptians 4,000 years ago. The Bwindi Impenetrable forest became a national park in 1992 and the Batwa were evicted from the forest which has been their home for the last several millenniums.

The team of volunteers comprised of eight professional artists from Seattle provided the two-week training to the Batwa Pygmies to create unique artistic products that meld traditional tribal techniques and western production innovations. The artists provide a training program to create a signature craft that is authentic to the Batwa culture and marketable. This project raised their standard of living and impacted their lives.

Upon their removal from the Impenetrable Forest in 1992, the Batwa had no means of economic survival, faced discrimination, poverty and the loss of their culture and way of life. Through the establishment of the Volunteer Artist Program they are becoming a commercially viable and respected artistic community in Ugandan society. Several galleries in Seattle are already exhibiting the works of the U.S. artists and hope to exhibit works of the Batwa soon.