Hands On Art Workshops, initiated by Lisa Milroy, offers a programme of practical art workshops for primary and secondary school students in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya.
In 2015 Lisa Milroy initiated Hands On Art Workshops with the support of Vodafone Foundation, Vodafone’s charitable arm and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. Hands On Art Workshops offers a programme of practical art workshops for primary and secondary school students in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya delivered through live video conference sessions and mobile phone messaging. Hands On Art Workshops is facilitated by Vodafone Foundation and UNHCR’s Instant Network Schools programme, which utilises digital video conference technology. Lisa travels to Kakuma Refugee Camp annually to deliver Hands On workshops, working with UNHCR Kakuma.
Stephanie Nebbia joined Hands On Art Workshops as Deputy Director in 2020.
The aim of Hands On Art Workshops is to support and encourage creative and imaginative thinking, engagement and exchange globally and intergenerationally between artists and students. All Hands On Art Workshops are devised by artists, and based on the artist’s practice. Through Hands On Art Workshops, students can develop their creative skills through drawing, painting, performance, object-making and writing, and aspects of functional design.
Hands On Art Workshops is grounded in Lisa’s artistic practice. The programme grew out of a practical drawing workshop “Everyday Objects” that Lisa developed in 2004 based on her approach to still life painting, first delivered to secondary school students in London.
To encourage more students to take part in independent art practice sessions across Kakuma Refugee Camp, Lisa devised the Hands On Self-Directed Art Workshops Manual, an ever-evolving set of practical art workshops devised by artists, based on the artist’s practice. The manual provides instructions on A4 sheets that outline the focus of the workshop, art materials required and illustrated guidelines. Using these instructions, any workshop can be communicated and shared through email and printed locally to facilitate workshops delivered by other teachers and artists in Kakuma Refugee Camp and beyond. A number of Slade Graduate Painting students now contribute workshops to the Hands On programme based on their own practice.
In 2019 Lisa set up the Hands On Art Scholarship to support secondary school education, providing full secondary school tuition for a Hands On student.
In 2020 Lisa established the Hands On Gateway Bursary, which provides a one-year salary for a secondary school graduate in Kakuma in the role of ‘Hands On Coach’ to support art activities.
In 2021 the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL offered support for Hands On Art Workshops by setting up the Hands On/Slade Short Courses Bursary, enabling the Hands On Coach to join the Slade Short Course programmes online throughout the academic year.
Both the Hands On Art Workshops Scholarship and Hands On Gateway Bursary have been funded through donor support and Lisa’s artistic practice, and are administered by Windle International Kenya. Lisa has secured donor funding for an annual Hands On Art Workshops Scholarship until 2024.
In February 2020 Lisa curated an exhibition ‘Hands On’ at Elephant West, Colart’s freely accessible cultural centre, presenting a selection of drawings and paintings from students from Kakuma Refugee Camp participating in Hands On Art Workshops. The event also saluted the Hands On Art Workshops partnerships, working with UNHCR, Vodafone Foundation, Colart, Windle International Kenya and the Slade School of Fine Art. Slade Print produced a set of six digital prints based on the students’ paintings as a fundraising initiative in support of Vodafone Foundation’s Shine A Light for Girls campaign, dedicated to improving girls’ access to education, informal learning and health services.
To mark the United Nations’ International Day of Education on 24th January 2020, Lisa collaborated with Vodafone Foundation and the National Gallery to create the world’s first live-streamed school trip for refugees, in which students in Kakuma Refugee Camp visited the National Gallery using VR headsets and tablets. Lisa hosted the tour, exploring a selection of 9 paintings in the collection on the theme of ‘time’, also a thematic focus in Lisa’s own research. The event attracted international media coverage.
CNN Article, ‘Young Refugees in Kenya take a VR School Trip’ (24 Jan 2020)
Documentation of VR School Trip to the National Gallery, video credit: Vodafone Foundation
Hands On Art Workshops during the Covid-19 pandemic
The closure of schools in Kakuma Refugee Camp during the Covid-19 pandemic brought the art workshop sessions using video conferencing in schools to a halt. However, liaising with colleagues in Kakuma, Lisa has connected with a number of students to deliver art workshops using mobile phones. Lisa sends workshop guidelines via WhatsApp to Joy Maraka, Education Assistant UNHCR Kakuma and Madam Sabella Muthoni, Headmistress at Angelina Jolie Primary School in Kakuma, who relay the guidelines to students through mobile phone messaging. Photos of the students’ artwork are messaged back to Lisa for feedback and support.
Partnerships and Collaborations
Hands On Art Workshops works in partnership with Vodafone Foundation, UNHCR, Colart, Windle International Kenya and Slade School of Fine Art, UCL.
Colart: In 2019 Colart came on board to support Hands On Art Workshops with a significant donation of art materials to facilitate the ongoing delivery of Hands On Art Workshops in Kakuma Refugee Camp. In 2021 Colart made a second donation to Hands On Art Workshops, which potentially allows the programme to roll out to a number of schools in Kakuma Refugee Camp with provision of art materials to support the creation of Art Clubs and art-related activities.
Lisa received funding from the UCL Global Engagement Office to support her annual mission visit to Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya in April 2020, postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
UCL News articles
- Delivering art workshops to students in Kakuma Refugee Camp using mobile phones, (August 2020)
- Providing art workshops for schoolchildren in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya (October 2020)