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Centre for Creative Ethnography

Zanzibar Arts for Children's Eyesight (ZANZI-ACE)

Utilising traditional and contemporary musical performances in eye health education


Why do we do what we do?

The majority of the 90 million vision-impaired children worldwide live in low-income countries. Living and working in Africa for over a decade has made Ving Fai Chan recognise the shortcomings of conventional approaches (brochures and posters) to address socio-cultural barriers to eye health service uptake in Sub-Saharan Africa.

What did we do and achieve?

The ESRC enabled Ving’s team at Queen’s University Belfast, the Zanzibari Ministry of Health, Tanzanian Optometry Association and local artists to co-create eye health education materials through a 2 ½-day workshop and a Zanzibar-wide music competition. The intergenerational and interdisciplinary project produced 3 high-quality educational musical pieces, a Theory of Change map and an implementation strategy for the ZANZI-ACE programme.

What makes our work impactful?


We included 34 stakeholders from all backgrounds – ministries, artists, professional bodies, charities, community members, children, parents, teachers, traditional healers and academia – to participate in the co-creation workshop. They gave their input on the local barriers, needs and attitudes to eye health and the potential of an arts-based approach to overcome the child eye health issues in Zanzibar.

Responsive, participatory and excellence

The stakeholders decided on the art form (musical performances) and key messages to be used in the ZANZI-ACE materials to ensure they address the community’s real needs. We launched a one-month Zanzibar-wide music competition to widen the opportunity for all talented musicians to produce songs to deliver eye education messages. With a panel of 30 representatives from artist groups, media, parents, children, ministries, teachers, traditional healers, leaders and community members, we selected the three best pieces1 based on content appropriateness, lyrical quality, and artistic value.

Sharing responsibilities and credits

Our local partners participated in every stage of the co-creation process – project conceptualisation, financial management, data management, acquisition and analysis, and report write-up – they had a say! Our local implementer, Dr Fatma Omar, led the premiere of the three musical pieces to the public during 2021 World Sight Day. This was aired on Zanzibar TV. Our work promotes equity and diversity – 60% of our team members are female researchers, and 50% are from LMICs and early career researchers.

Sharing knowledge

Before starting the ZANZI-ACE project, we found very few published examples of health programme co-creation. In fact, none was found in the field of eye care. Hence, we decided to document and disseminate the process, outcomes and lessons learnt from the co-creation process in peer-reviewed2 journals. This can enable researchers interested in interdisciplinary global health applied creatively to health improvement in low-income communities, to learn from our experience. Dr Chan shared the ZANZI-ACE experience with international researchers. We also created the ZANZI-ACE website2 to share the experience with the public.

What lies ahead?

To ascertain its effectiveness, we will be testing our ZANZI-ACE strategy in the schools and communities in Zanzibar. The work is supported by Lion’s Clubs International Foundation’s SightFirst research grant and the work is due to start in January 2023! We are hopeful that more peoples will be interested in a truly impactful project – done creatively, by the locals, for the locals.

  2. Chan VF, Belluigi D, Yong AC, Mulewa D, Poonsamy-Govender P, Graham C, Mashayo E, Graham R, Price-Sanchez C, Omar F. Co-creating an arts-based eye health education strategy in Zanzibar: process, outcomes and lessons learnt. BMJ Global Health. 2022 Sep 1;7(9):e009317.