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Education Hits the Road in Uganda

A multidisciplinary team in Kampala will transform the urban landscape with MatatArt, a mobile educational arts facility.

  • The 'matatu', a type of minivan, is the most common mode of transport in Uganda. MatatArt will transform a 'matatu' into a mobile educational facility.

  • Only 56 per cent of children in Kampala, Uganda, complete primary school education.

  • MatatArt will support various educational activities including readings, painting workshops, music lessons and theatre.

  • Not only will MatatArt interact with the space, people can interact with the vehicle itself. Parts of the van will be painted with chalkboard paint so children can draw directly on its surface.

  • MatatArt’s converted ‘matatu’ will have a very transformative nature: bookshelves and seating can slide out, as can fabrics for shades or screens.

  • The minivan will contain a myriad of educational tools as well as items like bookshelves, a projector screen, seating for readings and a sound system.

  • The design of the van will be flexible, allowing the vehicle to expand beyond its physical boundaries and bring education into the urban landscape.

Everyone is familiar with the ice cream van. Whether from childhood memories, or watching movies, the ice cream van, and its unmistakeable melody, encapsulates childlike excitement and wonder. In different countries, the ice cream van has taken on different typologies. In Australia, the original Mr. Whippy vans of the sixties were an instant success. In Uganda, the ice cream vendor takes a much more modest approach to distribution. Vendors cycle through neighbourhoods on simple pushbikes with a cooler strapped to the back wheel, projecting a tune from a device attached to the handlebars.

MatatArt, a multidisciplinary team of urban planners and educators, saw potential in the idea of a simple vehicle that could move easily into, and between, different neighbourhoods, engaging young people. Based in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, MatatArt are using this concept to introduce the Ugandan youth to something that they have had little exposure to: educational arts facilities.


The team decided on the ‘matatu’ – the most common mode of transport in Uganda – as the vehicle. By taking this minivan as the home for a mobile arts education centre, the group realised they could approach the youth of the community with a welcoming and familiar educational environment. The mobile, all-in-one structure will act as a catalyst for change in the informal settlements of Kampala where more than half the population live and where 55 per cent are under the age of 18.

The design of the van will be transformative, allowing the vehicle to expand, as necessary, beyond its usual physical boundaries and into the urban landscape. This ability for the van to adapt is an important aspect of the design. As MatatArt is planned for use in informal settlements and unplanned communities, it is hoped that the vehicle will show that any public space has the potential for transformation, whether for cultural activities, social engagement or developing a deeper sense of community.

After building momentum with their Indiegogo campaign in the last few months, MatatArt hopes to have their ‘matatu’ on the road by May. With just one matatu, they are aiming to conduct 20 sessions per month, which will reach 6,300 children per year. By creating a structure within which the young people of Kampala will have access to the arts, the team at MatatArt hope to boost the cultural development and social framework in the under-resourced areas of the Ugandan capital.

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