UCL Global


Delivering art workshops to students in Kakuma Refugee Camp using mobile phones

12 August 2020

During the pandemic, Professor Lisa Milroy has been delivering art workshops over mobile phones to students in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya

Drawing from Hands On art student

With schools in Kenya currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, artist and UCL Professor Lisa Milroy (Slade School of Fine Art) has found a new way to deliver Hands On Art Workshops, a practical art programme for primary and secondary school students in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya.

Lisa initiated the programme in 2015 with the support of Vodafone Foundation and UNHCR, delivering workshops from London to schools in Kakuma Refugee Camp through live video conference. Now that schools are closed and students are unable to access the video conference facilities, Lisa has been liaising with Mme Sabella Muthoni, Headmistress at Angelina Jolie Primary School in Kakuma, to connect with some of the students and deliver the workshops using mobile phones.

During this time, Lisa has been sending workshop guidelines to Mme Muthoni through WhatsApp, which Mme Muthoni relays to students through mobile phone messaging. Mme Muthoni shares the photos of artwork she receives from the students back to Lisa for comment and support.

Also through mobile phones, Lisa, Mme Muthoni and Joy Maraka, Education Assistant at UNHCR Kakuma, organised the submission of artwork from six students and one professional artist in Kakuma Refugee Camp to the UNHCR's global Youth with Refugees Art Contest

Below is a selcetion of drawings and paintings created by Hands On students in Kakuma Refugee Camp during the COVID-19 pandemic (click to enlarge):

Top row (L-R): Jamilah Nakito, Mary Nyalat Riak Deng, Teda Padang Mijok, Rimas Elduma
Bottom row (L-R): Rebecca William, Jamilah Nakito, Golda Aruten Okech, Majur Garang

Hands On Art Workshops

Hands On Art Workshops is supported by Vodafone Foundation, UNHCR, Colart, Windle International Kenya and UCL Slade School of Fine Art. They are designed to facilitate dialogue and creative exchange between artists and students in Kakuma Refugee Camp, and encourage students to develop their creative skills through drawing, painting, performance, object-making, writing and aspects of functional design.

Lisa travels to Kakuma Refugee Camp annually to engage directly with students, teachers and artists, working with UNHCR Kakuma. Her mission visit this year, supported by Global Engagement Funds, was scheduled for April but has been postponed until 2021 due to COVID-19.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lisa continues to work with Mme Muthoni through mobile phone exchange to deliver art workshops, and contributes to education planning discussions with colleagues in UNHCR Kakuma Education.

She also recently succeeded in raising funds for a second Hands On Art Workshops Scholarship, the first of which was set up in 2019. The scholarship will cover the full cost of four years of secondary school tuition for a Hands On student. To date, the funds have been generated through Lisa’s professional artistic practice. The scholarship is administered by Windle International Kenya.

Further information

For the latest news about UCL’s international activity, partnerships and opportunities, subscribe to our bimonthly Global Update newsletter