In November 2019, while reporting on the refugee settlements of the West Nile region of Northern Uganda, the ArtsEverywhere team encountered a remarkable young storyteller and aspiring filmmaker, Ray Styles, in the Bidi Bidi Refugee Resettlement. In collaboration with Rise Up & Talk, a local community-based organization established by Ray, ArtsEverywhere began developing the idea of the Bidi Bidi Media Lab to provide refugees living in Northern Uganda access to equipment and expertise in developing the skills to become visual storytellers.
In March 2020, one day before the ArtsEverywhere team was to return to Uganda, pandemic travel restrictions were put in place, forcing the remote development of the project. Over months of emails, text messages and zoom chats, Ray Styles was able to work—with minimal access to recording equipment and restricted mobility—with graphic journalist and project coordinator German Andino to create the first in a series of animated short films documenting the stories behind the lives of residents of Bidi Bidi.
Throughout 2021, Ray and German will continue to train local storytellers and create visual media aimed at empowering local cultural production by exposing it to the world outside the resettlement and will complete the three-part series of animated shorts.