You see, I’ve always loved stories. Stories that have the ability to turn things around. Stories that can put a smile across a face. Those that evoke empathy and sympathy. Heck, stories that are too powerful they can cause a whirlwind and transform society. And, stories that can turn the nation upside down and start a revolution.
As I grew older, I realised that I also enjoyed being a part of discussions. Discussions have the power to alter perspectives, the power to teach and give you a chance to be heard.
So, with that background you see why I leapt for joy when an opportunity arose for me to get in front of the camera back in 2014. Plus, I knew for sure that I loved the camera as much as it loved me. Yet, five years later after working as a news anchor/show host on Record TV, I was up for a new challenge.
In 2019, I returned to my first love-the camera. This time, on YouTube. YouTube grants one freedom of expression without limit. I wanted my channel to serve as a platform for my advocacy campaign for People with Albinism (PWAs). I had a real plan.
Prior to that decision, my YouTube channel had laid dormant since 2012. When I first signed up, it existed as an archive for my news bulletins and presentations. Now, it had an additional newly-minted purpose. Body flex with Blessing (BFwB) was born.
I partnered with a renowned and notable gym (Marco’s Gym & Spa) to encourage people to get onto that fitness journey that they had been reluctant about. Body flex with Blessing is a safe space for people to confront their fitness demons head-on.
We cover a wide range of people from beginners to procrastinators all the way to those that had fully given up. This series has garnered quite a following and it is safe to assume that it is because majority of us have a space in one of those groups.
While BFwB grew steadily, my audience demanded more – they wanted to hear more stories. Cue: Story time with Blessing.
Story Time with Blessing is a series of stories that capture the ebb and flow of life. This segment is dear to my heart because it comprises raw, unscripted and unfiltered stories ranging from human interest stories to lifestyle-related content etcetera. You would have to check my channel out to fully understand.
One of the things I have come to love about YouTube is the sense of community that it affords; you grow attached to your audience and push yourself to keep innovating – stretching your would-be canvas, all the while (journeying, together with your audience) towards self-discovery.
On a parting note, I would like to thank everyone that has taken time to watch my videos and to subscribe especially in Uganda where the cost of internet can be prohibitive. If you have not come across my channel yet but would like to support me, follow this link; https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmlXdr5qmCesveZTRr5QJbQ
I would also like to encourage more young people to occupy the digital space and use the platform to give themselves a voice, and to speak change to causes they are passionate about.
YouTube, like any other platform requires time and effort for one to grow. There’s no such thing as overnight success. So, pro tip? Figure out your niche, grab your smart phone, figure out the direction of your natural light and start creating.
As told by Blessing Naturinda (Digital Creator/Story Teller)
Kalule is using visual art to link Ugandan youth with their role models
Meet Emmanuel Sekitto Kalule, one of the founders and Team Leader of Faces Up Uganda – a youth led organization that is linking young people with role models for inspiration and support.
Emmanuel who holds a bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Fine Art from Makerere University, practices art as an activist platform and most of his works act as a voice to the voiceless within various communities.
Speaking about his journey to This Is Uganda team, he says “I Initiated Faces Up Uganda in 2015, during my second year at the art school at Makerere university. The organization fully and publicly got started on January 27th 2016 as I launched our first project called Faces up art campaign.” Emmanuel remembers. “Having studied art at the university, I came to realize how powerful art is as a tool to transform other people’s lives because I learned what true art is and how it can be applied.” He says.
On coming up with the Faces Up Uganda idea
When we are growing up we look to our role models for inspiration and use this as a blueprint for how we should behave when we’re older. This is likely a survival function designed to help us to mimic the traits of those successful members of our society and thereby help us to be successful too. This is what Emanuel is doing.
“I started up Faces Up Uganda to create a proper platform for mentorship for the young people and also link them to proper role models. Having grown up with a single mother after their separation when I was in primary two, I faced quite a lot of challenges especially lacked the parental guidance from my father and this was a challenge for me to find my true self as I grew up.Like most of young people be, I was a jack of all trades since I lacked a role model and a mentor who could guide me.” He remembers.
According to Emmanuel, majority of the multitalented young people in Uganda lack opportunities that recognize and support their talents and above all help support their development. This is evident that many multitalented young people here in uganda don’t reach to their full potentials due to lack of mentorship and Creating a platform to help identify and develop talents.
It’s such challenges encountered he encountered at an early age and in his quest to find proper individuals who could help guide him, he landed on a few good ones and a lot of wrong ones who drained his energies as a young person to satisfy their needs and also as a source of free labor.
On how he overcame some of those challenges
“Research and reading was one of the ways I dealt with the unique technical challenges. Being a fresh graduate from university, I had no resources and capacities to continue with the great cause I had started. Therefore I had to educate myself so that to be in a better position in this competitive world.” Emmanuel says.
Understanding the dynamics within the art market also helped him come up with relevant art. This has made Faces Up Uganda remain creative so as to be on top of the game.
“You always need to stand out in whatever you do and that has always been on back of our minds as an organization.” He emphasizes
But of of course team work comes first.
Team work, like the saying goes…”no man is an island” to be successful it is not a one man story. Faces Up Uganda has a team of multi-talented young people that are passionately committed to the mission and vision of the organization. This has helped the organization a lot in overcoming various technical problems and also leverage opportunity.
The role models that have been featured by Faces Up Uganda
By the time of writing this article, 50 portrait art works of public figures whom the young people look up to as role models have been featured. These include Hon.Rt. Hon Rebecca kadaga, Owekitiibwa. Charles Peter Mayiga, Miya Farouk , Onyango Denis, Angella Katatumba , Sylvia Owori , Hon.Bobi wine , Nabimanya Humphrey, Robert Kabushenga , D.j Shiru , Jamal Salim , Isaiah Katumwa among others. These art works were executed by a collective of five artist I.e Saekitto kalule Emmanuel , Byaruhanga Raymond, Kamanyire Osca , Arion Bonaface ,and Kalyemenya Douglas bush and exhibited at the prestigious award Makerere art gallery.
Sustaining the idea
As a fundraising strategy, Faces Up sells customized organization items such as jumpers, T-shirts, bags, caps and art works to fund the various activities toward realizing its mission.
The team constantly gets offers from people. These offers turn up depending on the economic situation. Fortunately, the public is rapidly appreciating Faces Up Uanda items such as jumpers , T-shirts, bags and above all art works and they are learning to buy them and we believe they numbers are going to increase in the near future.
His advice to emerging Ugandan artists
“Artists need to first appreciate and value their own works before they put them to the public. How will someone else learn to appreciate your work if you yourself handle it as trash?” Emmanuel says.
Feel like you need some art?
Get in touch with Faces Up Uganda team in Lugala , Luya parish along Sentema road as you head to Masanafu or contact them on +256705859110 / +256773367093. If you’re on social media, find them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or visit their website www.facesup.org
Bayimba; Uganda’s most amazing Arts festival
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.
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.
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.
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.
Celebrating Uganda’s Single Fathers
“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.
“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.
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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