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It is complicated – Uganda’s Boda Boda Thing

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You will love them but curse them. City drivers loathe them yet dwellers cherish them, they are swift, they are Uganda’s most loved, hated and adored passenger motorbikes- the boda-boda.

In Kampala you do not need a map, you need a boda-boda. Name your destination rest assured to reach your destination as fast as you can. You don’t have to be afraid of the dark; all you need is a trusted one that will take you safely home.

Kampala traffic can be terrible especially workaday mornings and evenings or when it has rained. I have never figured out a logical explanation for this, but the boda-boda will whisk you through the bumper-to-bumper traffic quandary with little resistance.

We distaste them yet we enjoy their lawlessness; they defy traffic rules to get you to your destination. Traffic policemen don’t even bother arresting and I don’t know why.

It is a love- hate relationship with the boda-boda.

You want to catch up on current affairs? Just trigger a conversation or think about any topic, they will be at it – they are incredible informers, political and soccer analysts and even counselors. As I rode on the boda-boda one day, I complained about the bad road from my home, the rider told me how the people in power think about only their families and yet the rest of us it is “every man for himself and God for us all.” Coincidentally that road we were complaining about was repaired two weeks later.

Boda-boda riders have studied the human traits, that they manipulate to the fullest. They will tell whether you are broke or have money, city dweller, or visitor whether you know where you are going or not. For some, if you insist on speaking English, they will charge you highly. If you are of a different race, they will double the fare. When they realize that you don’t know where you are going, they take the longest route or move in circles so that you can feel that there was value for the money.

It is a love- hate relationship with the boda- boda.

Disaster, danger, risk, ruthlessness, chaos and carnage are what come to the mind of the 20 something lady I spoke to. “Hospitals all over the country are full of their victims,” she said, “I suggest that a boda-boda ward at Mulago hospital is open,” one suggested.

This affair has got brains to work; “Tambula boda-boda” a boda-boda recovery-tracking app has been developed to recover them since many riders have lost their lives and bikes to thugs in the city and then the “Safe-Boda” an app that was developed to help link passengers to a safe boda-boda because this this ever-present quick taxi has maimed and killed many Ugandans. 3000 die every year.

It is a love- hate relationship with the boda- boda.

The question of what government is doing about this lingers. What policies are in place? The riders are supposed to put on helmets according the traffic laws. The passengers too are supposed to have these helmets but hardly do boda-boda passengers put on helmets.

Yet, many youth have found a source of employment from the boda-boda. While the rest of the citizens choose to hate them, most of those I have interacted with, have stories of incredible resilience, my “boda-guy” had it all, as a school drop-out, he started a business that grew to become a cross-border one.

“I had working-capital of about 40 million Uganda shillings, so I started importing rice from Tanzania, one day, we loaded the merchandise on a truck headed for Uganda through Mutukula border, the driver and the truck have never been seen again, our goods were stolen we tried to pursue the case, but it was all in vain” he said.

The Boda-Boda was his next resort, with the little money he had remained with he had bought one, he has never recovered from that loss but has hope that his story is not yet over.

Love them or hate them, they are part of us. It is that one complicated relationship that you swear never to look back to but end up going back to. If you must go back take precaution put on a helmet it costs 40,000 Uganda shillings it will save your skull from breaking into pieces.

It is a love- hate relationship with the boda-boda.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. abdoulayebah

    March 13, 2015 at 8:47 am

    In Kampala, it is useless to seek for an individual taxi. The only vehicles bearing the sign “TAXI” are minibuses. From what I understand, for individual travels, you must use these motorcycle taxis or or individuals driving their own private car. Having opted for the latter, I must admit that this is a very expensive solution. For every two hours, I have to pay € 30.

    This is the first really negative I have found in this wonderful city.

    • thisis256

      March 13, 2015 at 9:48 am

      Oh sorry about that Mr. Abdoulayebah. Such means are actually cheaper that is even reflected in the above blog post i.e manipulation by someone due to the fact that you’re a foreigner. But hey, you have to be vigilant. Uganda is full of nice people and a beautiful city. They can’t do harm to you sir 🙂

  2. daringtomakeadifference

    March 13, 2015 at 9:04 am

    I think € 30 is on the high side someone must be taking advantage of the fact that you are not Ugandan.

    • thisis256

      March 13, 2015 at 9:09 am

      That also is a possibility!

  3. Pingback: One Ugandan’s Open Letter to Billy Ocean | This Is Uganda

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Lifestyle

Bayimba; Uganda’s most amazing Arts festival

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The creativity at this festival will stun you. The Bayimba International Festival  2015 is here, it is the largest arts festival that show cases amazing African art.  For eight years now, Bayimba has created a space where people can freely express themselves using art. This space sees how every artist can fit in the art puzzle.  They started  and decided to be multi-disciplinary because they wanted to be open to new ideas, art forms, new exploration a thing that makes every are inclusive – street theater, visual arts, film, fashion, music being the most vibrant and theater itself. This is Uganda talked to the Bayimba team.

“We have seen transformation of the artists, the art itself, lots of collaborations and exchanges that excite us amidst other spin-offs that have come out. For instance young artists have started creating new stuff and new festivals meaning that there is a market and need which wasn’t there before Bayimba.

This year, we are not  highlighting any specific artist but will program cross cutting kind of  performances and productions that we feel like everyone who comes to the festival will find something they like. So we are multi-disciplinary so it is very difficult for us to say the headline artists because we believe that every artist selected for the festival is really special and they deserve to be part of the entire program.

But there are some special artists like Madoxx Ssematimba because last year he performed late and some people didn’t get chance to see him perform so we chose him to open the festival this year. We brought in also Sheebah for the fact that most people think National Theater is a place for old people so bringing in young artists like Sheebah, Radio and Weasel can bring in young audiences.

This year, we  have lots kadongo kamu artists programmed for to bring on aboard those oldies because who we realized are 12% of our following is between the age of 65 years and above and we cannot afford to leave them behind. .

We have also included a lot this year for example audience activities where we want audiences to be part of the festival not to come and just be entertained. We have sessions where audiences will come and take photos with the artists in a frame and then they tell a story of how they interpret that frame which is a way to create conversation and dialogue in a way that we don’t only tell people what they should hear but they can also tell us what they think in general.

We do also have a lot of conferences and symposiums on photography, animation, art, media.

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Legendary reggae artist Madoxx Ssematimba (middle) , will be the key artist at the #Bayimba2015. (Photo: Bayimba)

How did the Bayimba festival start?

When it started, it was just a thought  that evolved.  We were interested in exploring new art forms, new media, engagements and collaborations which is why most of our productions, 60% of the program is commissioned works whether it is on the main stage, auditorium, around the space because we don’t want people to see things they see everyday and we try to push the artists to think beyond what they can present yesterday or today but to think for the future and that also gives a better understanding of the audience to start questioning themselves what is the future, past and present. This kind of ideology around the art, the space and the artist is the question we want people to start asking themselves.

We want artists  to enjoy, we don’t want to be bothered by troubles of thinking beyond what they can imagine and at the same time there are those who take time to look at things from a critical point of view and question themselves so the idea of the program now, is to see how we create this dialogue amongst the artist and the audience plus the art itself because when you present new art forms, you are trying to create awareness.

 

 

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What challenges have you faced in your 8 year Journey?

It was a challenging and humble beginning in a way that it gave us everything in one bit because the first festival was bad in terms of attendance. This gave us an understanding that the kind of art we presented in the first event was not familiar with the people. They didn’t understand what a festival is, what contemporary dance is, street theater and these things we needed time to educate the audience and the artists as well what is street theater. We had I think in 2010 we organized a street theater workshop for one month and most of the artists who were there they thought they knew street theater but they realized its a whole different ball game and even in fashion, we introduced street fashion and we started with Kaz Wear (Ras Kasozi) who was also not sure but now he is showcasing at New York Fashion week, London Fashion Week and it all started in this case.

So this is the way how do we trigger thoughts, creativity, how do we stimulate young people to think beyond what they can do and over time, they start understanding that these things are possible and can do them on their own.

The Bayimba Foundation vision talks about recognizing the value of culture and arts in the development of a country, how you rate the contribution of the above on Uganda today?

I think it is a very traditional thought when we talk about art and culture in society. It is what we do everyday and it is what runs community and everyday life at whatever level so the idea of this thought of being a community good, the question now is how do we transform it into sustainable economic development for those that are practicing it not and not those living in it only. For me that’s where the difference is.

So the difference is how do we help those practicing arts and culture that contributes to socio-economic development to be able to sustain themselves and for us as an organization we take this very seriously because we know platforms like the festival are one way of showcasing art.

You can imagine how much transaction goes on during this week. You are paying 600 artists, security, sound engineers, logistics, hotels, venue all these things. So, that economic transaction is one way you can look at it.

The platform then offers an opportunity for the economy to inject money in it directly and then you are looking at the artists performing how they come to be on stage, they are trained, established, they have managers, people they are working with etc so that also gives another sustainable employment and job creation which also includes theater people.

Theater is the most expensive platform to run. We are talking about writers, directors, actors, stage designers, lighting and sound engineers, sound managers you know. All these people are working for one team and that all employment is also there.

So when we are talking about contributing to development, we are not talking about cultures in the definition of it but culture in the broader perspective and we are going deeper into the numbers, the spin-offs, the multiplier effect. When we are looking at the money we spend and how many people come lets say an exhibitor, they pay UGX 100, 000 to come in but sell items over UGX 3M, that is really income generating and from that, how is that money used around them so it is that whole economy we are talking about.

Sad enough is that that whole process is not yet recognized within our economic circles and policies because the government has not deeply looked into it even though they are aware of it and not supported it.

What we can do as a festival is to help build this foundation whereby artists understand that they do not only need to perform but also make money out of it commercially. They don’t need to be on stage with only CDs but with a band which is a whole lot of employment and by the time they begin asking about how they can contribute to the country, then that’s the next step.

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what happens after the festival?

It depends on what kind of engagement in the festival that they are in. We are already having a photography workshop going on and they are mentored before, during and after the festival by the tutors themselves. So they engage with them and guide them to become good photographers ready to earn income to continue when the festival is done.

At the same time with the other art forms like music, it depends if an artists is in residence for a collaboration with another artist we can do something but if someone is just paid to perform is not something that we can follow up.

 Five years from now, where do we see the festival going?

It will remain an urban festival. It adds value to the city however we also look out for more events through out the year. Uganda has the best weather, you can have the festival at anytime of the year. We will continue to follow our policy on presenting arts, experimental works, new art forms and things like that and that is how authors will continue engaging with us.

Every year we set the pace. We have to be different and remain on top of our game as the best music and arts festival in Uganda if we stick to our values. What we do is  being multi-disciplinary, we represent all art forms and experimental works and that we will continue to do for more years to come.

Lastly, what advice could you give to any upcoming performing artist in Uganda today.

What I miss in the creative arts sector is this eagerness and enthusiasm for good things without looking out for help where you can come out as an artist and say am working out something and when you present is, everyone goes wow. It is slowly starting starting but we have so many great artists here who can do this but someone put out something and you are like “oh my God”, I think we are not there yet. I think the artists need to think a little bit wider, focus more into creativity. Let them close themselves somewhere and get into a room where no one knows them, switch  off their phones, and just think on what they can do which will make them be different.

So this is what am looking forward to. Am looking forward to this wow moment, ideas that will blow away people’s mind and things that people will not understand but someone puts in time, resources and energy to create and show the citizens that I have been working on this.

#Bayimba2015

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Lifestyle

Celebrating Uganda’s Single Fathers

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Moses Abiine with his kids

Everyone can be a father but it takes someone special to be a dad” so goes the old adage. Parents are a pillar in a child’s life. Some say that the father is the head of the family but the mother is the heart of the family.

Countless stories have been told about single mothers, but in Uganda the phenomenon of single fathers is slowly creeping in.

What happens when she walks out on you and leaves the kids behind? Or when the unexpected happens and she passes on? The father must stick his neck out, take charge and be a real dad.

This fathers’ day we spoke to two single fathers that are doing a great job raising their children on their own.

Meet Wence Kamugisha, a 39-year-old single father of two, Jeremiah who is Seven and Maria four. Three years after a glamorous wedding, the two got misunderstandings that could not be resolved, they took separate ways, and they agreed that he takes care of the two children. During this time, Wence a data base administrator at Centenary bank fell sick with a rare trigeminal neuralgia and only recently got a surgery in India.

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“When I was in India, Maria fell sick because she was missing me. But I made sure that I call them everyday to find out how they are doing” he said.

He is back on his feet but even through the excruciating pain, he did not let go of his babies, and his neighbors accuse him of spoiling his children.

“They are mine, if I don’t spoil them who will? but I would like them to stay connected to their mother as much as possible. So during  the holidays they go to see their mother. I don’t want our differences to get in the way  of their growth. ”

We also spoke to Moses Abiine a 33-year-old single dad. His wife Diana passed away in 2011, for 4 years now, he has taken care of their kids.

“The last-born was 1 year and eight months when my wife died. I knew from that day that my children were my responsibility. I have always loved children; I don’t want to see children suffer whether they are mine or not. People encouraged me to take my children to the village to their grandmother but I wanted to keep my family together. If I take my kids to the village, I would be disconnected from them. I dropped out of school when I was young. There was  no school fees for me; I want my kids to have a brighter future. This is my ivory, My kids are my responsibility. No one will take my kids away from me whether I have a maid or not. My kid’s miss their mother yes, but they are comforted by the fact that I care about them.”

“When I was working as a driver at USAID LEAD, life was good. But when the project phased out, I told them that life wasn’t going to remain the same. I opened up to them to live within their means.”

“My challenges as a single father are very many, I worry about my children a lot, I am always thinking about my kids. About school fees, being a driver, most of the time, I am not at home, I worry about my kids’ hygiene, whether they have gone to school, then I also have issues with maids. I worry about their clothes whether they still fit, and their medication especially when I am in the field. My children are insured over the years, the maids have stabilized and I requested my organization to insure my maid as well. I make sure I pay her well and that the children respect her.”

“I would also love to spend quality time with my children, but work limits me yet the little time we have with them is to make sure that they are working. They now think I am very tough- they know that cleaning the compound is their responsibility. I need to learn daily how to discipline them with out creating a rift between them.”

“Right now I work at International Sweet Potato as a company driver. At work they will not give you special care because you are a single father. I have built a house for my kids, I rear goats and now I have 5 cows. This has taught me to be more responsible and to work harder. By the time I stop being employed, I should be able to be self-employed. I am working towards seeing that I can earn at least 500,000 from my farm every month.”

“My kids must know that I love them; I want them to be people of confidence that will change the world that they live in.”

“My advice to all fathers is that they should aim at a good life for their children all kids are the same. And this is not about the money they must be present in the lives of their children all the time. Right now, my daughter knows that she has to keep herself pure until she is through with school. I give her these life skills, sex education. I make it a point to live an exemplary life to my children. Help them do home work. You must sow in these kids’ lives then you will yield at the end. They will be children that change this country, not to drink And when faced with life’s challenges. We have a choice to make, but men should not turn to alcohol to drown their issues but face the giants. It is not easy but the fruit is worth it.

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Today, we celebrate all the awesome dads out there, the dads whose kids call inspiration, the dads who don’t leave it all upon their wives, the dads who never give up through thick and thin, the same dads that never adopted for abortion when the world said it was to early. In a special way, we celebrate the single fathers, you are the rock upon which this country is slowly being built.

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Lifestyle

Uganda’s kitenge craze

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Bab 3It is one of those trends that has taken over the fashion world by storm. It has been widely accepted worldwide and seeing it on the backs of so many Ugandan people brings us  so much joy. The kitenge fabric has been crafted to fit all designs and occasions representing the African heritage extremely well. The beauty of this trend is that it gives everyone the liberty to choose their own style and make their own fashion statement while maintaining the traditional aura in the patterns of this fabric.

Forget the days when clothes made out of kitenge fabric were for the old people who used the materials to make clothes with a conservative approach. Skirts, dresses and shirts.Bab 2.  Kitenge/chitenge is an east African fabric similar to a sarong often worn by men and women. Kitenge has been worn informally on any occasions and symbolically for example on traditional weddings, visitations and such other special functions and informally, more of late on casual days, cocktails etc.

The beauty that is kitenge is that it comes in a host of colors and patterns with each telling its own story. A traditional batik technique is used to print these patterns with each holding its own uniqueness and story.

It brings me great pleasure to see the streets of Kampala brightly colored with all these fabrics in different styles and prints. With people of all ages beautifully clad in this clothes.

‘Kitenge fabric depicts the African heritage in every sense’ says Gloria, a huge fan of the kitenge fabric. ‘It has really cool patterns too’.

When asked about the versatility and the best way to wear kitenge outfit, Bridget Mpora a designer and proprietor of Mpora designs says ‘to pull of any outfit made of kitenge, one has to simply accessorize it right. Get the right jewelry, purse, the right shoes and you will have nailed it. ‘

And on how and where to best wear outfits made from the kitenge fabric, ‘Kitenge is just another type of fabric used to make clothing to fit different occasions like parties, casually, formally and many more other functions.’

Bab 1Watch out for an exclusive interview with Barbra Ruth a young woman whose passionate about crafting the Kitenge. The pictures of the designs used in this story are hers. “Fashion is a passion.”  she says. In the meantime you can whatsapp her on 0782796617 to make an order.

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