From Black Rock City to Nakivale Uganda

By Zach Bell
Sep 7, 2018

Every year around 80,000 people return home from Burning Man inspired to apply the principles they experienced into the world. This is a story of how the HABITAS Community brought this to life over the last year.

Since 2016 RISE has been working in Nakivale Refugee Settlement in Uganda to co-create Uhuru Land - a project led by local residents. This project represents the first public gathering space and town square in a refugee settlement. The town square is centered around - not a Man - but rather an amphitheater. The goal is to support the refugees to reconnect with their passions, connect with each other and share their cultures with each other and the world.

Uhuru Land is an agora, a town square and a gathering place where culture can begin it's natural process of self-expression.

Culture acts as a unifying force to uprooted people, and this cultural hub fosters community, dignity and expression.

“We make the hive. They bring the honey. We create just enough order so that this spontaneous naturally occurring process called culture, which is born of the interactions of people that no one can plan and no one can control, will begin to happen.” Larry Harvey - Burning Man Founder

RISE is collaborating with local entrepreneurs, community leaders, artists and residents to bring this to life in Nakivale Refugee Settlement in South Western Uganda. Uhuru Land represents the first public gathering place for the over 100,000 refugees from 12 African Nations living in the settlement to come together, meet, learn, share and inspire each other.

At Uhuru Land we were fortunate to have Shrine (who built the temple at Burning Man 2008) stay in the community for a month. He worked with refugees to create large scale public sculptures and dozens of murals.

The Uhuru Land project was led by long time Burner and HABITAS member Mike Zuckerman and Ilana Lipsett. Mike moved into the camp, formed deep bonds with some amazing entrepreneurs, makers, innovators and disruptors. He kept the ethos, inspiration and organization alive while working towards this seemingly unreal goal. Following the 10 Principles, a free amphitheater in the middle of the town square was built and has already been used for weddings, dances, concerts, the World Cup, and so much more.

Fellow Burners and HABITAS member Nachson Mimran from has been supporting local makers and innovators. His organization (among many other things) has worked with refugee residents to make 100’s of necklaces that some of you might have  been gifted this year on Playa.

Madelynn Martiniere (another Burner) and her team from Promise Hub are currently building an innovation center full of connected technology in the Uhuru town square.

#ThanksLarry. Thank you Burning Man and the entire community and what you’ve taught us. The smiles, the gratitude, expression and generosity we’ve experienced have been unlike anything we could have ever dreamed.

About HABITAS | Rise

RISE is 100% supported and created by the HABITAS Member family; from financial contributions of each membership, to donations, project management, partnerships, introductions and expertise. We are so proud and humbled by our family. At HABITAS our community is everything to us and we started RISE as an effort to bring the same type of community self expression to the people that need it most.

Building community for HABITAS, is beyond our immediate concentric circles. Community can change lives everywhere and should do so with a life of it's own. All one needs to do is plant the seed and water it's nourishment and find inspiration in the new growth of a family, a community that can be worlds apart. Through our own growth, in our own part of the world, we have learned that the ripple effect of the lives we lead, impact the far corners of the earth. This is why RISE was created.

What's Next?

Up next we’ll be working to complete the second phase of the amphitheater and gearing up to create the first ever music festival in a refugee settlement.

Join us. It’s just getting started.