Back to Global Conversations 3.07: Teesa Bahana, Director of 32° East, Ugandan Arts Trust
Melissa Biggs Bradley talks with Teesa Bahana about her non-profit work in Uganda—building community and social change through contemporary art—what it means to have the freedom to express yourself (and why making art accessible matters). Plus, how to not be afraid of failure and why travel can transform the way you live and show you that there are other ways to be.
Africa is one of Melissa’s greatest travel loves. Of course, it is known for its animals and landscapes, but also, everywhere you go, you meet amazing people. People who are involved in protecting communities, traditions, history, and culture.
Our guest today, Teesa Bahana, is a hero and a humanitarian both, even though a young one. Teesa is barely 30, but for 5 years she’s been running the leading contemporary arts organization of Uganda—the 32° East Ugandan Arts Trust.
Located in Kampala, the capital, 32° is a non-profit, dedicated to the creation and exploration of contemporary art in the country, and among other things, it oversees the city’s biannual art fair. Teesa is now in the middle of fundraising and planning for the construction of the first purpose-built arts center in Uganda, which will include a suite of artists’ studios, exhibition spaces, and a library—which will be a long way from the three leaky and hot shipping containers that currently serve as the center’s studios.
Melissa has long believed that Africa has much to teach the rest of the world, and when you talk to people like Teesa about the role of art and self-expression in a country where freedom of expression is hardly a given, and daily life is still an enormous challenge for many, you obviously learn about much more than contemporary art.