When Bruno Ruganzu, an eco-artist and lecturer, first attended ‘Blankets & Wine’, a social event in Kampala at the Uganda Museum, he saw an opportunity in the empty wine, soda and water bottles that were heaped in a ditch ready to be thrown away.
The part-time lecturer at Kyambogo University, collected some bottles and took them home hoping to use them to construct the eco-friendly house he and his fianceé, Grace had always wanted.
“My friend and now neighbour, Dennis Naturinda is the one who helped us find a location. Grace and I wanted to build close to friends so we decided on Kitukutwe in Namirembe Ward, Kira, where Naturinda lived.” He says when Naturinda took them to see the area, it was a bush.
The land which measures 50 by 100 metres cost them Shs11m which they paid in two installments. First, with Shs9m and later Shs2m. This money, he says, was part of his savings from a stipend he earned as an artist in resident at the McColl Centre of Art and Innovation in Charlotte, North Carolina where he had spent eight months as an environmental artist in resident.
“When I returned from USA, I was scheduled to travel to Denmark so I left her with about Shs20m. At the time, we had talked about a traditional wedding. Instead, she decided to start construction of the house,” Ruganzu narrates.
Ruganzu says his mentor at the university, at the Department of Art & Industrial Design was into construction and implored him to start construction.
Together with his architect, the two came up with ideas to accommodate conventional and his artistic concepts.
The couple paid Shs880, 000 to the council for the house plan. Then he went on to collect more waste.
His neighbours and the officials at the Kira Municipal Council, where he submitted his house plan were curious as to how he was going to use bottles to build.
The construction started in 2014 and is still a work in progress, true to the artistry notion that an artist’s work is never complete, it is merely abandoned.
When he set out to start constructing the house, he organised a crowd funding campaign on social media. He is a strong believer in Ubuntu, a spirit of humanity.
“From friends, many of whom are from social media, I received money through mobile money and bags of bottles. Building has been possible because of the Ubuntu spirit. To date, I still receive empty wine bottles because of the interest I expressed in using them. Friends will call me to collect ‘my waste’ and I am always happy to pick the bottles from them,” he explains.
The glass house
The house is no doubt a work of art. It looks like a gallery. The boda boda rider who took me to Mr Ruganzu’s home intimates that residents call it the ‘the glass house’ because it is largely made of glass and plastic. Mr Ruganzu says this is his way of ridding the environment of waste.
Even the compound has plastic and glass.
He has a backyard garden with vegetables and spices where he also mentors his children in gardening.
Ruganzu’s living room is filled with wildly artistic pieces.
For chairs, he used old bathtubs bought from scrap dealers in Kalerwe, near Kampala, cut them into seat forms and added wooden stands and cushions for comfort.
For coffee tables, he creatively merged a car tyre with wood and tampered glass. His plasma flat screen television is fastened into a wall with bamboo.
The ceiling was left raw, with bare concrete, wood and nails while the walls are fastened with bottles and cement. Ruganzu says has been able to bring his artistic ideas to life thanks to a builder who appreciates and actualizes them. “Building is a reminder of how we can use things that look useless to many,” he says.
Ruganzu’s next plan is putting up a home bakery.
He plans to also put up more rooms upstairs where visiting artists will reside.
Ruganzu’s three bedroom house is made of plastic and glass bottles embedded within the walls and the compound of the home.
This is his way of ridding society of waste.
Ruganzu has been approched by people who admire his work to design their compounds.
He has picked a number of lessons from the building process, the biggest being commitment.
Don’t rely on builders. They work with an I-don’t-care-attitude. I was at the site like the workers. I never wanted to be seen as the boss,” Ruganzu says.
Be an active participant in the construction process this enables you monitor usage of construction materials.
Go to the construction sites as often as you can.
Building makes one save aggressively and value every penny they make or earn.