Community based project, Uru, Tanzania (2009)

In 2009 I spent three months working closely with the community in a rural village in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Working with only locally available materials and equipment (an electric single-phase welder), the project culminated in the creation of a sculpture in the shape of a life size banana tree constructed from local coins. The project was the result of a continued dialogue with the villagers on the subject of sustainable growing of bananas and coffee, the local produce.

Approaching the project as a complete outsider, working with a community in which the very concept of community based art was completely alien, animating and involving the local community was a key element. Through research and discussions I sought to gain a clearer understanding of how globalisation affects local agriculture in developing countries and the impact this has on the community and sustainable growing.

The materials were gathered by the local community, who had to travel to nearby villages and towns, as the local settlements didn't have enough coins to support the project, thus animating and engaging the wider area. The project generated a huge amount of interest and created a rich and diverse dialogue across language and cultural barriers. One of the key objectives for the sculpture, was to create a piece of art representative of the area and community and the project was well received by the local population, who felt they could relate to the shape and subject of the sculpture, whilst at the same time having been closely involved in its construction.

What is notable about Tanzanian coins is that is the actual value of the coins has become so devalued that the face value of the coins is now worth less than their international scrap metal value.