Labartin – Profile of a Ugandan Artisan
While in Uganda I was photographing a few different organizations and their work. Throughout the month in Uganda I also met a lot of amazing individuals with stories to share. In addition to some multi-media projects I will be working on in the future I wanted to share their stories through images and quotes. . .
Meet Labartin, an artist, shoemaker, and screen printer who lives in Kampala city and uses his art to make a difference. Over a few games of pool at Kibira we talked a lot about his art and I realized he was a unique person with incredible motivation and drive to improve his life and the lives of others around him through his work. Later in the month Labartin and I spent a big day cruising around Kampala City and checking out his world. We first went to his studio in the middle of the community where he grew up. His grandmother and extended family still live there next to the studio. After checking out the studio we cruised downtown to the shoe factory he used to work in and where he still goes to fulfill big orders for shoemaking.
“I was born in the ghetto which doesn’t mean I have to live that way my whole life. I create a difference in my society while using art to help support my extended family. One hand can’t clap alone and so I try to teach others my craft so we can work together to fulfill orders. When I get bigger orders for shoes and shirts I use a factory downtown where I used to work to fulfill them.”
Labartin is also conscious of the youth around him and helping them learn about art. “During holidays when the kids don’t have school I run art classes at the studio and teach them how to do screen printing and make shoes.”
Later on he showed me old family photos and discussed his life growing up and how it wasn’t easy.
“As you look at this photo, this is my family. I am the kid front and center without a shirt on. I come from way down in the ghetto as you can see here. When I was young we didn’t have lots and lots. I would live bare chested or with out shoes and that was life. I was born into a family that couldn’t afford those things and now I have my own business making them for others. If you create something unique you will always have people around to support you. To me art is an element that can change the situation that I was born into. When I look at these photos I remember how far I’ve come in this life.”
“You don’t have to fear trouble you stay motivated. You can always change the situation you are living in. I was born into the ghetto but now I am not living the ghetto life. You can change life, you can change everything and make your hope into a reality. You need a strong heart to make it in life.” – Labartin
Labartin’s Grandmother and sisters at home by his studio.
“I bring the ghetto uptown through my art and footwear. I have clients all over Kampala city and Uganda.” – Labartin in down town Kampala City.