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Green bottles and blue denim - an artivist’s guide to saving the planet

Updated: Nov 20, 2022

Sandra Suubi, 32, is rallying against climate change through wearable installations made from various waste products.


By Atieno Odera, bird Story Agency

At the Climate Story Lab Africa 2022 edition, a woman dressed in a costume made with over 500 green plastic bottles struts onstage in a fully packed auditorium.


Sandra Suubi, a Ugandan based visual and performing artist performing at The Climate Story Lab Africa. (Photo Credits : Sandra Suubi)


“Kiragala Kiragala! Chetwagalo Kulagula! The energy is rising…filling up the air! Forests are burning…burning the green away! Swamps are flooding…plastics everywhere…” she sings dramatically.


Her words charge the atmosphere as they bounce through the echoey walls. The audience is left at the edge of their seats.

Kiragala, Luganda for green, is Sandra Suubi’s latest installation. Through this wearable sculpture, the socially conscious Ugandan artist calls on humanity to rethink the single use of plastic.

For more than eight years, Suubi has been at the forefront of climate justice. Besides plastic repurposing, she also explores other themes around environmental sustainability.


At the Climate Story Lab, she had two other presentations– The Blues and Olugoye Lwaffe.

In The Blues, she painted a picture of how the production of denim jeans was hazardous to the environment, while her Olugoye Lwaffe wearable sculpture drew attention to the effects of second-hand clothing on the environment.


Sandra Suubi, a Ugandan based visual and performing artist performing at The Climate Story Lab Africa. (Photo Credits : Sandra Suubi)


“My aim is to create a one-acre long dress. At the Climate Story Lab 2022, in Nairobi, I was presenting only a quarter to highlight how each of the clothes that we individually and constantly buy compound over a period of time. My question to the people is ‘do you know how many clothes you buy per week, day, month, or year?’ We buy more clothes without thinking about what we already have,” said Suubi.

“This piece is made of many clothes sewn together into one massive dress and allows many people to wear it, demonstrating that an individual action greatly affects everyone else wearing the dress.”

In this presentation, Suubi challenged the audience to think twice before buying more clothes.


Through her art and music, which she mainly performs in open places like markets, Suubi has influenced visible change in her community, demonstrating the influential role of art on the road to net zero.

Sandra Suubi, a Ugandan based visual and performing artist posing for a picture. (Photo Credits : Sandra Suubi)


“The response in different communities has been potent and humbling at the same time. I remember when I used to make the site-specific sculptures alone. I’d go to a community, collect what they considered trash together with them and we had learning sessions where we shared and experimented with the material to build sculptures. People always had so many questions and interest in the work and why we were doing it,” she said.

“Now that I combine music with art, the response has been more impactful. The communities listen to the songs when I perform and see me wearing these sculptures made from found objects. Many times they never forget the message when put on a song,” said the award-winning artist.


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