Reflections on the experimentation happening in Maputo around transforming data into art in Visualst’s Art is Data workshop.

the changemakers team

Visualst is experimenting with the connections between data and art. In our recent ‘interactive workshop’ we asked SDG data ninjas and artists of types to work together in taking statistical prompts to visual sketches and then to artwork.

The workshop’s structure allowed for icebreakers and an introduction to the project’s genesis, which is the inaccessible formats of important SDG data resulting in lack of country and citizen ownership. Following our introduction, participants created a live continuum of data visualizations to artwork, and we discussed why most data journalism and data murals fall somewhere in the middle.

We then broke into small groups, mixing the artists with social practitioners, and delivered each of them a prompt which contained SDG data from Mozambique on one of three priority goals (e.g. gender quality, climate change, economic development).

Ideation and interpretation of the prompt went smoothly, bringing the ideas of the individuals in each group together and attaining consensus on a vision for the artwork was the challenge. The other big leap was from paper to canvas – the formality of the canvas intimated groups through the proposition that anything worthy of a canvas had to be ‘art’.

Once on the canvas, the default was for the artist to lead the process and be the creators, whereas the practitioners had driven the discussion and interpretation of the data prompt. The dichotomy of these traditional roles was made evident in these moments and is something that this work is attempting to deconstruct.

Overall the workshop was a huge learning experience and a great success. We thoroughly enjoyed the development process and tested a number of assumptions we were grappling with as we work together with artists to create commissioned pieces for our upcoming exhibit at the SDG Action Festival in Germany May 4-6, 2019.

Next up is a reactive visualization workshop, where our team will create real-time visualizations based on live critiques and reflections, from participants, of the Art is Data art pieces in mid-April. Stay tuned or email us at [email protected] if you’re interested in attending.

More info on the Art is Data Project:

While the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the most important to-do list in history, countries and citizens lack a personal connection to the agenda. Visualst wanted to bring these goals closer to the people and organizations who are responsible for creating the change, so we started in our own community in Mozambique. We are bringing together social practitioners, organizations, activists, artists and data scientists to blend the meaningful with the beautiful.  The Art is Data project is a collective art project where SDG data is transformed into artwork because we believe that action is moved by empathy and by feeling. We also believe that art is the universal medium for emotion, where ideas and truths can transcend the current reality. Join us at the UN SDG Action Festival ( to experience the art that has been co-created in Mozambique to localize and humanize the global goals.

Visit our website for more about our work (