Meet Denis Nyanzi, the medical doctor who puts old wine bottles to good use

Born to a peasant family in Luweero, Sengooba Denis Nyanzi started school at Wobulenzi primary school where he did fine art and literature at O-level and later went to Ndejje Senior School for his A-level where he did Physics, Chemistry and Biology as well as Sub-math.

Having finished A-level, Nyanzi would later join Uganda Christian University in Mukono for Bachelor’s degree in Medicine and Surgery. He was a member of the university’s pioneer class of medicine.

Lockdown blues

However, when the lockdown set in, all education institutions closed, Nyanzi had to sit home.

The lockdown blues saw the UCU student think outside the box to do something to keep him busy.

“I used to see wine bottles all over home and other people’s homes yet no one wanted to throw them away. Up to now, people want to keep these bottles around but don’t use them for anything and can’t be recycled. This made me think outside the box to turn these bottles into something valuable so they can be returned to people’s home,” he says of his beginnings.

Art comes in handy

Being a student of medicine  at university, thinking about recycling and designing bottles is not something that would make sense to many people but to Nyanzi, the art background came in handy.

“Art has always been a passion to me. It is not something I just started doing but I have been doing it since primary school. Even my weird drawings while in class indicated I wanted to do art,” he says.

He says that the desire to do something to contribute to the environment made him look at recycling empty wine bottles.

Many people would find a way of breaking the bottle and that would become a danger to those collecting rubbish. The best way was to start doing something by recycling them.”

He says one step led to the other as he designed the bottles.

According to Nyanzi, armed with shs15, 000, he bought threads, a small tin of wood glue and a pair of scissors and he was ready to go.

“I started designing slowly, learning and making mistakes as I continued learning. I learnt from scratch and if made mistake, I would correct it in next piece. I taught myself and kept improving. The initial capital was my savings and not even my family wasn’t willing to help me because they didn’t see how this was related to what I was studying,” he says.

The work

He says that he would get bottles, clean them and later sort them after drying.

The sorting he says depends on the type of design he wants the bottle to appear in.

“The design is informed by a thought of what I want it to look like. I use the principle of balance in art and I don’t just throw around colours,” he says.

He says he then uses wood glue to stick the threads on bottles and the work takes between 30 minutes and one hour to complete designing a single bottle.

The customers

Nyanzi says his customers include corporates with offices and those who embrace art.

 “It can be anyone ranging from students, families, offices, guest houses with art in their interiors. I get them from social media including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and referrals from previous clients. I also get clients through friends who keep referring people to me,” he says.

Just like any other shop, he says his work has not been without challenges.

“Since mine is an online shop, people find it hard to trust someone with their money. Also, since I ask people to first send deposit before I start working on their orders, many find it difficult to trust me with their money. Some people don’t like such an arrangement and fear of being cheated,” he says.

The first born in the family of six says this means he has to inject in his own money and that sometimes, those who make orders end up not claiming what they have ordered.

“I have to be online 24/7 since my clients are got online. I have to keep up with high internet costs. I have to be online even when expecting no client,” he says.

Nyanzi says he has challenges with getting befitting packaging materials as he now opts to use polythene bags but says they are not presentable.

He also notes that when some of the people he work with learn how to do the business of decorating, they run away to start their own businesses.

Never the less, Nyanzi says he is proud of what he has achieved in the few years he has been in this business.

“I am very proud of the work. I have had to prove to the world that I can juggle two unrelated fields of medicine and designing bottles. It has taken me places. I have participated in an MTN challenge called Nsindika njake. I have applied for scholarship and this work is what I put on my CV. I have also trained people on how to do this work and designed other people’s homes,” Nyanzi proudly says.


He has some pieces of advice for fellow youth.

“My fellow youths should embrace their talent. If you nurture your talent, you can even become better at it. You should be open to learning because it never stops and anything new you learn can get you something for a living.

 If you get something that gives you daily income it is better. Working with fellow youths makes you better. If youths can work together, we can change lives of fellow youths.”

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