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Laura Byaruhanga: Spicing Up Uganda with the Spoken Word

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LAura

Meet the passionate poet Laura Byaruhanga, she loves poetry so much that she treated guests on her wedding day to awesome poetry. she is the brain behind Open mic Uganda.  Open Mic performances will blow you away. Open Mic is a platform that promotes spoken word in Uganda. They hold  monthly poetry night activities and school visits. We caught up with the passionate founder Laura Byaruhanga who shared with us her experience

Who is Laura Byaruhanga?

Laura Byaruhanga Businge is a Christian. She is a writer, producer, voice artist and radio personality. She is a creative mind, a lover of the arts, and a wife. It’s hard to describe her so in a nutshell, she is Laura!

Why Open Mic Uganda?

I chose to be a part of Open Mic Uganda because it was a challenge in the arts scene in Kampala, and I enjoy challenges, especially because there were no regular poetry nights at the time we begun. It’s fun working with a team of passionate young people. In spite of the challenges, we have pushed through with our dream.

What is this spoken word that you and your youthful friends have been so much passionate about?

Well, spoken word is basically self-expression to entertain, educate or inspire an audience. It is primarily through poetry performances. A few of us watched a lot of Def Poetry Jam and thought abbot trying it out. We thought it would be a cool way to move an audience, and so the organizers are mostly poetry performers, and were to begin with. Most of the poetry performances in Kampala, which were seldom held, were theatrical in nature, so we decided to try out something new like we had seen in the videos we had, and a movement was born!

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One of Open Mic’s Finest poets

 

 You have been so passionate about poetry to the extent that you treated the guests at your wedding reception at Serena with bouts of spoken word. Where did all this begin from?

Lol!  Well, you could look at it in different ways. I needed entertainment at my wedding, so being a producer of a company that deals in entertainment, I already had a pool of talent in my grasp! Hahaha! But the real reason? I knew that if I got married, I wanted entertainment that would keep the audience glued, remember it possibly forever, and make everyone have a good time! So poetry performances were the perfect thing to have! Please note I would have probably had a huge poetry production, but my husband knew I would take it too far, and pushed against it. But the live performances, both music and poetry, were phenomenal!

 Where did you get this love for poetry and spoken word?

I think it’s a combination of reasons. Even though I don’t like being to be center of attention, I really enjoy public speaking, acting and performing. I love written poetry, I love word play and I love attending shows. I first fell in love with poetry from a young age, and I believe that a combination of these passions and talents gave birth to my love for poetry, spoken word and poetry performance!

 Has your family been supportive in your pursuit and love for this not so common spoken word?

Hmm. At first my parents thought it was okay, they have always supported my passions. But at the time I used to perform at poetry recitals at the National Theatre under the Lantern Meet of Poets, I was about to finish university and was unemployed. They thought I was wasting my time and told me to stop wasting time with poetry! Then Open Mic Uganda happened, and I was constantly lectured especially for going home late. I was severely told to leave the platform and anything poetry related which got worse when I finished my contract and was jobless again! It was hard but after I explained to them a million times and they saw my resilience in staying in the movement, they softened. I think it helped when they saw several articles of us in the New Vision and Daily Monitor newspapers!

 What are your biggest accomplishments ever since you launched this spoken word platform?

As Open Mic Uganda? We have sold maybe hundreds of our Open Mic Uganda merchandise such as T-shirts, wrist bands and bookmarks thus publicizing ourselves. We have a vibrant social media presence, especially on Facebook and Twitter. We have had I believe just over a hundred shows in and around Kampala. We have had performers on our platform go all over the country and across the borders exporting the talent that was nurtured on our stage. We have worked with organizations of all types dealing in humanitarian issues discussing their issues through spoken word. We have been spoken about on broadcast and print media that has been key in the growth of our movement. A lot of our management team have used the skills they have gained with us in their careers such as presenting on radio and public speaking. But most importantly, we have been the pioneers of a movement that we are working hard at passing down to the generations!

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 You are a producer at Open mic Uganda, how do you get to pull off these hectic monthly shows?

I can honestly not take the credit, I work with an amazing and vibrant team! Every production is due to a team effort! Also the support of the Uganda Museum where we hold the shows, and of course the poets, musicians we show case, and audience make it all happen!

 What was interesting about the “Fusion360”?

Fusion 360 is the monthly show we hold at the museum. It is interesting because from Fusion 360, we have been able to gage what the audience wants, the local talent we are dealing with, how to come up with a production and work on our marketing and publicity.

 Any experiences that have touched you while promoting the spoken word?

Yes, the hunger for talent grooming and mentoring. Whether at Fusion 360 or at schools, many writers and performers have come to us for advice on how to improve their performances or writing. It’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly!

Also at the close of each and every show, we have had performers thanking us for giving them the opportunity to share their talent with the world! It always touches me and reminds me why we do what we do!

 As a lady, how do you manage to keep on persevering to promote this idea even amidst challenges?

Well, the world knows that women are the backbone to many successful ventures in history. This may be because of our ability to multi-task, not break under pressure and care for those around us. So no matter what storm hits us, as a person and as a woman, I know that we can handle it. I won’t lie, I cry many tears that are unseen to those I work with and those we struggle for, but in those tears I find strength that endures the winds and the pressure trying to knock us down.

 What has been your best memorable touching spoken word show or tour ever since you started and why?

I honestly can’t pick, they were all touching at some point in their own ways! But the ones that stand out are when we held a show with Abavubuka Foundation at Open House, the very first Open Mic Night Kampala show at Sabriinas, the first show we held at Gayaza High School, the first Fusion 360 show we held at the Uganda Museum, the last Fusion 360 show we held supported by Take One Entertainment, when we performed at the Bayimba Festival in 2012 and Engero at the Ugandan Museum.

Well, it seems you are here to stay! Where do you see Open Mic Uganda ten years from now?

Ten years later, I see us in our offices with enough room to hold shows and rehearsal space. I see us exporting our poets around Africa. I see the management team being able to earn salaries on a monthly basis, and our poets getting paid handsomely for each of their performances. I see us performing at state functions and still supporting underground artists. I see us, the current members of the management team being mentors to those in the spoken word movement in Uganda and East Africa.

Start-ups take great courage and commitment. What are some of the challenges you have faced so far?

The challenges are very many! Consistency in passion of each team member has proven to be our hardest challenge! Lack of finances is probably our second biggest challenge. Also most of our target audience is still biased against poetry as a form of entertainment. And support of the government and arts community is greatly lacking!

 Any worst moments or regrets?

Definitely. Trusting some organizations who wanted to selfishly benefit from us caused us to get into a lot of trouble and stress. But we were able to learn from this difficult experience and come out of it better and wiser than before.

 Are you planning to promote and produce spoken word for the rest of your life or time will come and say “Yeah i have played my part”?

I think a time will come when I will note that I have played my part and step off the playing field for others. This movement is bigger than the individual; it is something we want to touch the generations to come even long after we are long gone. Also, there are other passions in my life that I want to dedicate my life to, so as much as I will dedicate a large part of my life in this commitment, I will walk away from actively producing the shows at some point. But I hope to always be a mentor in this, even in my old age!!!

 

Lets talk about the activities you do. From school outreaches to monthly poetry nights (which are awesome by the way), what made you adopt this strategy?

Hmm. Well, like I said it was a team effort! The purpose of the school trips was to first of all show the generation after us what poetry performance is all about. Then encourage them to try it out and start it as a school activity.

Monthly poetry nights are our first, most consistent and best way of achieving our vision! We actually started this and then decided to come up with all the other activities to support the success of our poetry nights. It is our most successful activity!

 

Have you received any rewards or skills or lessons from being associated with this platform?

Rewards? No yet! Skills? Definitely! Organizing events, human resource management, problem solving skills and creatively engaging a consistent audience to mention a few. Lessons? There are many but the one that stands out is to never give up your dream, even when against all the odds. Also, keep praying! When I pray, I mention Open Mic Uganda often because it is very close to my heart and I believe God wanted it to be a part of my destiny!

 

Am sure this started as a passion for poetry. But now that you’re getting recognition, does it still remain driven by passion?

Yes! It is! There are challenges like I mentioned earlier with consistency in passion. But in spite of the challenges, even when our problem of the presence of finances is solved (and I am sure it will be), it will still be driven by passion! We deal with poets, a category of some of the most passionate people on the planet! So I guarantee passion is key!

 

Behind your inspirational leadership and the name of your organisation, there are other people who help you be who you are or have helped you. Do you mind mentioning at least some of them? How big is your team?

The team was vast, but membership numbers have dwindled. However, key to mention are Ernest Dennis Sesanga who is a director, has been there from the very beginning and has been responsible for the Marketing department. Murray Shiraz sat in the very first Open Mic Night Kampala meeting and has dedicated every bit of his passion in this movement. Mark Gordon Musinguzi was the founder of Open Mic Night Kampala, and some of the members from this thus formed Open Mic Uganda. Winnie Apio, one of our most talented poets has been acting as the administrator and manger of the team. Maritza Byoga was the P.R.O and MC of our shows as was Patrick Maasa Birabi who doubled as our Graphics Designer for most of the posters of our shows and branded material. Steve Gumiriza has been key in dealing with stage management, and Tasha Emily for the welfare of our audience during our shows. Also key members in the past to note are Don Arinaitwe, Hellington Musoke, Susan Tusabe, Priscilla (Chef Illaxino) and Deexon Muhizi.

 

Then outside OMU, which partners have been helpful to you in your spoken word poetry shows?

We have been largely supported by Milege, they have been incredible and we are forever indebted to their assistance with sound equipment during the shows, sometimes availing the Milege Afro Jazz Band! We are also grateful to Take One Entertainment for graduating us to a level we only dreamed of at the time! Bonfire Uganda has helped us with sound equipment at our first Fusion 360 shows, as well as in providing performers. We are eternally grateful to The Lantern Meet of Poets for providing us with incredible talent and poets over the years. Also important to note are One Question Network, Brand 360, Writivism/CACE and others. Also, we are thankful to media houses like The New Vision, The Daily Monitor, NTV and others for covering many of our shows, we are honored!

 

Let’s talk about personal inspiration. Which people inspire you in everything you do?

I honestly never know how to answer this question; I am inspired by many people in different areas in my life! But key is Jesus, He has never let me down and constantly sustains me and uplifts me to greater heights!

Apart from God, I am inspired by my husband who has been there through EVERYTHING! He pushes me on when I feel like everything is a mess, when I want to throw the towel in. My parents and their love always never ceases to amaze me. Nargis Shirazi, my friend and sister from another mother truly amazes me with the fight to achieve her own dreams, some which are similar to mine in nature. My siblings and their individual strengths. And the entire Open Mic Uganda team that works tirelessly to support the dreams of many poets, and upcoming poets and performers.

 

If you had a chance to meet Russell Simmons (Def Jam), what would you tell him?

First I would jump up and down in disbelief! Then I will make him scribble his autograph like a million times! Then I will thank him graciously for coming up with his dream of spoken word because it has set fire to maybe hundreds or even thousands of minds to express themselves through their words and thoughts. He is responsible for many people finding their confidence to step on a stage and open their hearts and minds with others. I would tell him this and more.

 

If you also had a chance to meet policy makers in the Ugandan government for example the president or parliament, what would you tell them?

I think I would lecture them for undermining the performing arts in this country, especially His Excellency! Then I would ask them to find a way to ensure the performing arts are supported by the government. I will probably have a proposal strategy in hand and will do my best to blow their minds! I don’t know if it would work, but I would do my best!

 

At the end of the day, they say judge a person by the works of his or her hands. How do you want to be remembered?

Well, as concerns Open Mic Uganda and the spoken word movement in Uganda, I would hope to be remembered as a person who inspired others to follow their dreams, those who follow us to work tirelessly at progressing the spoken word movement in Uganda, and someone who pushed on against all odds!

 

This Is Uganda wants to tell the world that Uganda is not about Idi Amin or Kony but about beautiful people like you making a difference. Imagine if a white is reading this interview and they are touched, where can they contribute to your cause?

Well, if by a white, you mean someone who has the ability to contribute to our dream financially and is willing to do so, I would tell them to meet up with us and see how best to contribute. It could be with a grant, via sponsorship, or in any other way! They could reach us on our Facebook group or page on Open Mic Uganda, or our Twitter handle @OpenMicUganda, on email openmicuganda@gmail.com, or our blog openmicuganda.blogspot.com.

 What advice would you give to someone who wants to be like you?

Love God with your all, be true to yourself, and work at helping others to the best of your ability. This is the policy I try to live by, and it seems to be working!

 Any remarks you want you make to appeal to the people?

Poetry is the essence of art! It is the backbone of music, the body of visual art, the motion in the tempo of dance. Embrace it!

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Meet DJ Rachael East Africa’s first female DJ

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Daniel Ecwalu-25

Photo Credit: Daniel Ecwalu-25

Dj Rachael is a trail blazer in her field, she is the first East African female Dj, who started out at a tender age and grew into one of the best DJs on the African continent; also a Rapper, Producer & business guru, she runs an Audio Production Studio “Scraych Rekordz” and a Mobile Events Company called “Raybon”. Her big heart, charm, dedication  has seen her sail through the Dj’ying  profession for  close to 20 yrs.

Right now she is into  music production more than ever  because she  thinks it’s becoming a basic in the life of a Dj. “It’s what makes superstar Djs. I’m glad I was welcomed into the Santuri family which has taught me a lot more than I knew before. ” she says

How did you start?

It was just a fun thing as a kid picking up a Mic and doing some covers as an MC and Rapper in the early days but then I joined Dj-ing out of curiosity because the Djs where I Mced picked interest in me  gave me the necessary basics to head start DJing. This profession picked me up and we’ve been cuddling ever since. It is something you just stay in love with. I didn’t go to any school for Djing, I picked up all that I learned from the Djs I started out with at Club Pulsations and then made it an issue to be better than them. I used to tease them about me having a crazier crowd than they did after I became good at it.

Are you genre sensitive? Which is it and why?

I do not center on a particular genre because my clients are much diversified. In the beginning I loved hip-hop and gangsta music. Now I love more Dance, EDM, Afro house, deep house, Alternative, Rock and Hip hop still. It goes with the territory and to me these genres move floors, though it helps that it’s my kind of music.

What is the Dj-ying landscape like for a woman in Uganda?

I softened the landscape and landing for female Djs in Uganda and East Africa. But then again I didn’t have as much a hard time as I expected though they treated me like an amateur rider. It was topsy-turvy at times where some people would cover me with blankets, others with helmets and yet others with spiky eyes! I guess it still is like that in some parts of the country though it’s no big deal in Kampala.

Any occupational hazards?

Djs especially female ones get short changed by some employers, others get rough experiences through coarse sexual advances from male employers. Its rough terrain if you don’t own a car and have to move in the late hours of the night with your equipment; you could get into all sorts of danger like robberies or worse.

Were you supported by family (parents) when you started?   

Actually I didn’t tell anybody I was going out to DJ. My mum heard about it, was probably flabbergasted and one time she surprised me with a cameo at the Club. I almost broke the record I was playing. She made a lot of fuss to the owners of the club because I was so young. They later resolved it, she got herself some drinks and later even danced while I played. You should have seen the grin on my face!

Do they support you now?

Now everybody loves Dj Rachael, okay not everybody. Most of my family does. Though my mum didn’t live on to see me become the Dj that I am today because she passed on in 1999 barely a few years after I begun. Bless her soul. Then there is an uncle who still insists I should have pursued my pilot project because that’s what I wanted to be as a child! A PILOT! I was actually good at math and sciences.

How long do you plan to Dj?

I told my family I would go on till I’m 75yrs old and they laughed. But it is very possible in this industry. There was an old lady Dj in the USA who was 94 years old and another from Poland who is 77yrs. I’m still a baby!

What are the future prospects for Ugandan women on the world market like?

I think the market is very broad-based right now and the future looks pretty good though the competition will get even tighter out there in the world. There’s so much high tech going on and if you don’t follow you can get left behind in a flash, so you need to be very tech savvy. Old school works pretty fine but if you want to be a household name you got to keep up and get on top, literally. And yes a solo concert has been on my mind like forever now and I know its getting pretty close. Since I’m making 20yrs in the business I think there is my catch. The fans should watch this space and wish me luck on this huge milestone coming up.

Do you think a solo concert would work for you?

I think it would work out very well and people will realize a DJ is big business these days. The Dj industry has grown in leaps and bounds and Djs can now hold huge concerts all on their own.

Are Djs appreciated in Uganda? Why?

The appreciation is only visible in a few sectors, from a few employers. The fans are really all the way behind Djs because they see what they offer. Some employers or event organisers don’t give the Djs enough appreciation. They see what you do and reap the benefits from your talent but they don’t show it in the way they pay. Some Djs themselves don’t rate themselves highly and thus they create a devaluation of DJS.

What are your thoughts at the realization that Djs can headline at festivals now?

It is way overdue. It makes me feel real proud and ecstatic to see this new development and especially seeing that some international superstar DJS are making more money than musicians. Who ever saw that coming?! I Hope it also starts happening in Africa.

Would you help someone (a girl) start Dj-ing? Word of advice to interested girls.

Yes of course, I would love to help girls get into Djing. BUT words of caution: It’s not a matter of looking pretty you got to work hard to perfect your art. AND be who you want to be don’t follow what others are doing, identify with your inner self.

How much do you earn?

I can not put a real figure to the earnings though I can say it’s worth it if you are dedicated to what you do and if you get the right gigs. At the same time in Uganda you need a supplementary salary or business because of some reasons mentioned above.

Where have you played?

Club Silk for 7yrs or more. Club Pulsations, Club Rogue, Club Volts, Steak Out, Sombreros(part time), Cayenne, Big Mikes, OS Club, Florida 2000(guest Nairobi), Stone Club (Mwanza), Via Via (Arusha), Happy People (Kigali), Heineken Capital Fm Parties, Bambucha Launch party, Irish Ball, Italian Day, USA Independence Day ball, Mama Akina Wa Africa Festival, Bayimba Festivals, Sondeka Festivals, Club Silk Street Jams, Wayne Wonder & Demarco concert and so many more corporate and private events and parties.

I was the only Dj chosen by BBC in East Africa to pick the best nightclubs in Africa 2015. I won the Alliance Francaise World Music Day Dj Battle in 2013. We are going to change the face of East African music with the Santuri Safari programming and remixing. It’s going to be a tsunami. Catch me at the Sondeka Festival September 10th 2015 and Bayimba Festival September 18th.

You can follow Dj Racheal on Twitter @DjRachael256, Instagram LilSniper04,  Facebook Dj Rachael, Soundcloud DJRachael4Raynsom

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From Blogging to empowering girls, this Ugandan woman is changing her world

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Ida Horner

When she is not blogging, her mind is preoccupied with creating community transformation, enabling girls to understand menstrual hygiene and being able to offer people other options of life other than the exam passing skills imparted by schools is what she is doing in  Ruhanga,  South Western Uganda. Her Name is Ida Horner Bayiga.

Her Passion led  her to start the  Africa On The Blog, run the Let Them Help Themselves (TLHT)  foundation and  Ethnic Supplies these are are all peieces that fit in her dream of changing her world.

This is Uganda caught up with Ida, to share with us her passions, dreams and what she is doing to make her world a better place.

How did you start all this?

It’s that sort of realization that you can do something, I  felt that I could reach out to those that were less fortunate, so I started by exporting handcrafts and textiles made by women and all was going well until the recession hit.

A friend of mine, Ann McCarthy on knowing what I was doing invited me to have a look at something she had started in Ruhanga, so I came back to see her project, she was out of her depth, I mean it’s a remote village, no water, no medical center, no school, no means of money generation and whatnot. So, I setup a charity Let Them Help Themselves out of poverty (LTHT) and over the years, we have accomplished a lot. Now we have a school for 500 pupils, running water etc and right now, we are focusing on skills development like tailoring skills, computing, menstrual hygiene and one of the reasons I am here this time is to review this project, where do we go from here, did it actually help, is there any one particular activity that they really really want us to develop further and to see what works and what doesn’t.

So, what is Let Them Help Themselves really about?

Our core value is community regeneration, so we speak to the community to try and understand what there issues are, to try and understand why those issues have not been addressed, whose role it is to address them and where the blockages are and those are the things that prevent people from becoming economically active because, if a woman is spending most of her time of the day collecting water and making sure that that water is safe, she doesn’t have time to go and earn an income.

If a young girl is spending a week or so without going to school because of lack of menstrual hygiene, it impacts her negatively, so we try and have such conversations with the communities so we can forge a way to try and help.

We see our role as people who want to remove blockages at prevent them from becoming economically active, we also look at transformation using the skills development initiative where if a young girl learns a skill, it becomes handy even if she dropouts at age 15 or 16, wherever they land, they can easily find employment or create a job for themselves because people have to have options.

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 What else are you involved in?

We are also involved in Humanitarian causes/emergencies, here in Uganda we were involved in the Bududa Landslides and also in some slum project in Kireka where were helping women refugees at a quary to sell their handcrafts. Also during the Ebola Outbreak In Sierra Leone, the Sierra Leone diaspora came to us and we helped to provide people food in the treatment centres as their families neglected them because they were suffering from Ebola.

How do the people of Ruhanga take it in, that an outsider, a stranger is trying to help them?

It’s not easy, and it hasn’t been easy since 2008. It’s about negotiating and building relationships because we are all about transformation and giving communities other options, so having those conversations and knowing the power structures in the community, has been a bonus for us, It has helped us help them. it’s actually a privilege that they allow us to help them, but if you come with an “I know best” point of view or from an imperialistic stance, then forget it. The people of Ruhanga have learnt to accept us in and we respect that.

LTHT is mainly based in Ruhanga but, do you have any plans of widening/spreading this campaign to other places?

It’s possible, I mean, Yes we can do it but honestly, it all comes down to finance, if you dont have the funds to travel around, to pay your employees, you can dream and dream and nothing happens. And also we don’t get any funding from the UK government or the Ugandan government so we rely on individual donations, that’s how we have and are still doing it But also there is still a lot of work to do in Ruhanga, were trying to build a model and a blue print that someone can look at and take away and also replicate because it’s basically developed organically. So for now, widening and spreading is just in the pipe line.

What is ethnic supplies?

Ethnic supplies is about helping people who make handcrafts and textiles to access the market in Europe, before the recession, it was turning a small profit but after the recession it isn’t easy anymore, people priotise where and on what they are spending their money on.

How does ethnic supplies work, I mean If I wanted in, how would I go about it?

The basic principle is that we don’t work with any one group that we haven’t met, so part of my role is to travel and meet these groups and the idea behind that is to check out their employment practices in every sense of the word. So for you/your group to join, we have to have met the group and have established that you have transparent and fair employment practices.

Looks like you have been beaten to the better part of fairness, what are those things that you look at to measure or ascertain good/acceptable employment practices?

I have a very high sense of ‘fairness’, I hate seeing someone being unfair to someone else, be it a person or a brand, I don’t like people being undercut and cheated & people not getting their wage because let’s face it, most people don’t know their rights and employers use that to terminate their contracts unjustly and to manipulate them so, unethical employment practices are exactly what I am against.

What are some of those things that have enabled you to get where you are?

Social capital! Social capital allows you to get a long way which gives you privilege, the social capital has helped me to get on and my ability to help other communities isn’t because I am rich but because I have a lot of social capital. Social capital is important in all terms and ways.

As curator of Africa On The Blog, what exactly do you do?

That’s nearly a full time job in itself, I source contributors to the platform, chasing them for their articles, promoting the website, making sure that the contributors are looked after, I have to ensure that the quality of work is good and to bring new people on board.

Tell, us more about Africa On The Blog?

Africa On The Blog was started 5 years ago, It was an idea that I had and other people in the diaspora wanted. I actually thought it would only engage the women in the diaspora to talk about their Countries, experiences, and stories but the thing took a life of it’s own. *laughs*, So We ended up getting many people who wanted to be contributors from allover Africa including Men.

some of the contributors we had were lecturers at universities who started sending their students to us as a resource, it’s pretty much started a life of it’s own.

Do you have a any Ugandan contributors?

Currently, we have none but over the years, I have heard 4, first was a pharmacist, then David Mpanga who is a solicitor here and 2 others but currently, I don’t have any Ugandan contributors.

Do you think colourism is real in Uganda, because I actually think it’s on a very low scale?

Colourism is real, it’s an issue of patriarchy, low self esteem, politics and colonialism because now women believe that to get a good job they have to look like Maggie Kigozi. Just stop it, don’t do that to yourself these skin lighteners have side effects that you will have to live with for years to come. Because…

Do you have any plans of organising a charity event in Uganda like the walk around Virginia Water Lake?

Most people in Uganda don’t know exactly what I am doing and after being in the UK for close to 24 years, that’s where all my social capital is, but yeah, I would love to have a fundraiser here or run a Ugandan but it wouldn’t be easy. We have a place at next year’s London Marathon and I was almost tempted to give it to a Uganda to fundraise for us, but the VISA situation would be a difficult thing, so I gave it up.

So how can young people  volunteer with LTHT?

Currently, you/that person must be willing to travel to Ruhanga because that’s where we are currently based and some of the things we are looking at isn’t money. If you could get 10-15 comrades who owned laptops and you went to Ruhanga to help the people there to get the computers, you’ve shared your skills and that’s very important, even if it’s just for a weekend. That would be much better than money, people like me value time, if you give it your time, then it’s worth it and we would be grateful.

As a writer I assume you are reading. What book are you currently reading?

It’s a feminist book but its a good one, let me show you…

It’s Beyond the pale and I would prefer the pages but that would mean I have to move around with a book and I mean, look at my handbag, very small a book can’t fit.

Any last words to all the ladies out there and every body?

To the ladies, go do it yourself, that’s advice I got from my dad, make sure that you’re financially independent as a woman and don’t do anything to yourself like bleaching, it will live with you for the rest of your life.

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Girls after receiving free re-usable sanitary pads made by participants at the skills development initiative.

Ps. We do believe that many Ugandans out there are doing awesome things and we would like to be a part of you if you could share your story like Mrs. Ida Horner did. Do you have a story?, you can email us at thisis256@gmail.com

 

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Writing Shouldn’t be your sidekick- Uganda’s Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire

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Bwesigye-bwa-Mwesigire

A master of his art, a writer and a creative in all forms of mental creativity that refers to himself as just a guy who promotes African Literature in all spheres, and Co-founder of an organization that fronts African Literature, promotes the arts through writivism.

 So who is Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire?

This is always a hard question to answer.I will just say that I am one of three co-founders of the Centre for African Cultural Excellence, a non profit that promotes the arts, especially African literature, through Writivism.

When did it occur to you that you are a writer?

I am hesitant to identify myself as a writer. A writer of academic and journalistic work, yes, a creative writer, no. Writers are human beings who have novels, plays and collections of poetry published. I have none of those. I am only a promoter of African Literature who sometimes writes academic essays and journalistic reviews and interviews writers.

Where does your inspiration lie?

Problems that beg for solutions, which means all problems are inspiring. They give one a reason to work.

They say that if you want to hide something from and African hide it in a book. Do you think this is still the case?

It has never been the case. I want to look at a book as an image for a story. Stories are not all written. There are oral stories. There are written stories. And there are stories that are both written and oral. Africans, Ugandans, human beings have always consumed literature, stories in whatever form, written or oral.

 Writivism what does it even mean? Tell us more about this initiative.

Writivism is about the promotion of African Literature produced and consumed on the continent. We hold workshops in various cities on the continent, connect emerging writers to established ones to be mentored, run an annual short story prize, publish annual anthologies, run a schools programme and an annual literary festival in Kampala.

There is a lot of information being written. How shall we make Ugandans read all this information with all the things competing for their attention?

We need to stop thinking of reading as the only way to consume information. Film is important. Music is as well. Oral literature is as important as written literature.

 What is your message to Ugandan writers?

They should be pro-active. There are many opportunities, they should grab them. They should work hard too. Take writing as seriously as lawyering, doctoring, engineering and other professions and vocations are treated. Then it will pay. If taken as a part-time, side-kick, it won’t work. Imagine if being a lawyer, doctor, engineer etc. was considered as a side thing, it would not pay as much. Our work, us who promote writing and writers will be easier when we have excellent work being produced, to promote.

 

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