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This Ugandan Photographer Tells People’s Stories With His Camera

KLA ART boda boda project, photo cred Alex LyonsThrough his camera, Papa Shabani tells people’s stories. Most of his photos reveal intimacy with his subjects. He has represented Uganda several times in solo and group exhibitions something that makes Uganda proud.

Who is Papa Shabani?

I am a photographer whose Contemporary Art practice involves research, intimacy, expression and communication as a process of documenting life. I was born in 1990, studied at Margaret Trowel School of Industrial and Fine Arts at Makerere University in Kampala Uganda (2011-2014) and currently living in Hamburg, Germany (for now). I am a young photographer who at his early stages of his carrier has gained the ability to visually tell people’s stories through photography. I have had both solo and group exhibitions in Uganda and further been featured on websites and blogs around the world, including The UK Guardian website. I am a communication designer using graphics, graffiti, fashion & watercolor painting.

IMG_0622 How long have you been a photographer?

Professionally since 2012, but I started photography in 2011. However my earliest memory with photos is in primary school when I spent countless hours looking through Times Magazines that my uncle had collected over time, I also remember staring at particular pinned photos/ wallpapers as it was a popular culture until early 2000.

You have an awesome blog, have you had a breakthrough already?

I have recently updated my blog with new widgets to give the visitor a more lively and interactive session than before. Its working for me but I am not sure to say I had a break through already, However I have got some jobs from contacts that discovered my work via my blog so I would say I’m rather progressing.

How would you describe your style?

My style is mainly contemporary, portraiture and documentary that involves research, intimacy, expression and communication. The urge to understand the my subject /model is important to me,

Why do you love photography?

The activity of staring at photos for countless hours is one of the strongest memories that I have from childhood. And this also inspired my university research topic “The Role of Photography as Therapy” when I tried to question myself why I spent two much time looking at photo material as a child, I found out that there was/is a psychological trance that my conscious went/goes through whenever I interact with photos. Situations like these made me fear (but happy) that my relationship with photography is too spiritual. For me it’s an invisible (to the rest) escape route to me, I speak with photographs, its so personal that you won’t understand what I’m trying to say here. But all I’m trying to say is that is what I found happiness in.

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We all have people who inspire us with what we do. Which photographer(s) inspire you?

Malik sidibe, Seydou Keita, Santu Mafokeng and Stanley Greene. etc

So where do we see Papa Shabani five years from now?

Alive. And only better than myself, making better photos, and telling the African stories in the most authentic way that they deserve to be told. In 5 years, I shall be 30 years and I want to see Uganda and East Africa stop being the most underrated region in Africa when the world talks photography.

What does it take to be a successful photographer?

I shall have an answer to this question in 2 years time; I’m only a progressing photographer! 🙂

If there is one thing that people can point at you and say it is exceptional from the rest of the photographers, what could it be?

This question can best be answered by other people and not me, honestly I would advise you ask “people”, like the question states. (Be sure to actually ask people).

Let’s say you have taken a shot, how do you judge it to be a nice shot?

Very personal question, I don’t know how to answer this!

How many shots does it take you to make to get a fine shot?

Usually, I give myself 1 chance and one shot, I hardly remember moments I have done that. Plus in most cases you have only one shot to move on! Unless if I’m shooting in studio or related cases.


Post processing or filters, what do you like most?

Post production. Filters for quick photo updates on social media, in this case there isn’t that much time to post process.

Best moments so far as a photographer?

Every time I have to travel because of photography, by 2014 I had been in most corners of Uganda and I have moved to Europe for now. The multiple photography awards that I have won in the last years and of course that fact that I’m able to pay bills from what I love most.

Any worst moments?

I covered a personal project and lost the memory card before downloading photos that I had already considered as one of the best (again, this is very personal).

We know everyone has challenges in everything that they do. What challenges do you face as a photographer?

Being a community photographer takes so much courage. Safety of me and my equipment, plus the risks/dangers of being a photographer in a society that misunderstands the medium very much are very countless. Photography is also a very expensive hobby.

In your photography experiences, have you had any experience which has touched you as a person?

Several, but for privacy of some subjects/ some projects haven’t been officially released I can only share this


What awards if any do you have to your name ever since you became a professional photographer?

  1. Uganda Press Photo Awards (UPPA) 2014___3rd Prize Award in Portrait category 2013___2nd Prize Sport Award, Honorable Mention Daily Life category, and Honorable Mention Portrait category.
  2. For detailed information kindly visit link-

What advise can you give to someone who wants to be a good photographer like you?

Read about photographers, submit your work in for photo competitions, allow photo critiquing by other photographers and find a tutor. Discover a personal style, create a website, blog and other online social media platforms. Well wishes

Any last words?

Thank you for supporting me!


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How This Group of Young Men is Creating Employment Through Art and Craft


A group of 6 youths in Makindye has embarked on a life changing journey, turning their passions and skills into a profitable business.

After attending a crafts exhibition at the National Theatre in 2015, these friends were inspired by the attractive crafts on display to start their own workshop making and selling crafts.

“We talked to Mr. Muwembo, the craftsman who was showcasing his work. He offered to give us training as we worked for him. His workshop was in Kanyanya so we used to come from Makindye every day to Kanyanya. It took us over a year to master how wood craft is done,” said Mark.

While at this apprenticeship, these young men started making their own pieces which they sold, using the profit to purchase their own equipment.

“We had a strategy. Every month we had to buy equipment. After a year, we had developed skills and were able to start our own workshop,” said Malakai, one of the proprietors of the workshop. “To start any business, it needs commitment, passion, and ready to take risks, consistency and involvement.”

In 2016, these committed youth started their workshop on a small piece of land given to them by Malakai’s father at Lukuli, Nanganda.

“After two months, KCCA came and demolished our workshop saying that they wanted only built up structures on the main road. Even all our equipment and materials were taken. We went back to zero and all our savings had been used to buy these things,” narrates Mark. “We visited KCCA offices several times trying to see if we could recover the materials. We had lost wood, vanish, paints and tools like small axes, carving tools, pry bars, clamps, hammers and marking tools. We never got any back so we gave up on them”

As a result, their work was put on a standstill for some time. This was a very big set back to their dream of building a very big craft shop. Their next challenge was getting another location.

“Towards the end of 2016, KCCA advertised a funding opportunity for the youths who had business ideas and also those that had running businesses. We wrote a proposal but this took a while and we never not get any feedback.”

Desperate for capital to start over, they sought loans from their parents to no luck. Only Abdul’s parents supported them with a small loan that wasn’t sufficient to cover the cost of materials and new equipment.

“During that time, there was a road construction project. we asked for jobs and worked there for 6 months. We saved all our money and rented a small piece of land where we put up a workshop. This time it was not on the main road.  We started working again and lucky enough, we had market from our time at Muwembo”s workshop,” narrates Mark.

Malakai working on one of the pieces in the workshop

Due to their hard work, these six young men have managed to create jobs and employ more eleven young people who distribute and take on other tasks like filing, shaping, chiseling, painting among others. The group is constructing a workshop and a showroom on the main road in Lukuli. By next year, they believe, the workshop will be done.

“Basing on the current situation in the country, we are able to earn a living and also employ other people,” says Abdul.

When asked about their goals, this inseparable team wants to have at least 100 employees by the end of next year and also start exporting their craft. They encourage their fellow Ugandans to follow their passion and find a way of earning from it.

*This is a guest post by MARVIN MUTYABA, a student at Makerere University Business School, currently pursuing a Business Administration in his second year. He is passionate about entrepreneurship, skills development and fitness. 

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How Kasule Is Changing The Lives Of Children Of Prisoners One By One


Jimmy Kasule Chan is a 29-year-old man who has dedicated his life to supporting the children of prisoners in Uganda. With over sixteen children from twelve families in his programme today, he is working towards his vision of a prosperous future for the children of Ugandan prisoners.

Kasule (Right) does homework with one of the children in the programme

His desire to change the lives of prisoner’s children was awakened in 2012 when he was wrongfully detained at the Harare remand centre in Zimbabwe for six months.

My friend had told me to go with him to South Africa for work. When we got there, things were very tight and we decided to come back home after two weeks with some electronics for sale. We thought this could be our business. On our way, we had to go through Harare but we did not have some stamps in our passports. Because Uganda does not have an embassy in Zimbabwe, we had gone through the Tanzanian embassy but the people at the border could not understand this. We were taken to Interpol and on getting there, we were arrested for Border Jump. We were detained in Harare remand centre for 6 months without having any real contact with anyone. There were 12 Ugandans in total” he narrated. “My wife was seven months pregnant at that time and I kept thinking, what if I never go back to Uganda? Who will help my child? I resolved to help children of prisoners if I ever got out of this prison.”

Jimmy described his time as a prisoner in a foreign country as horrific and inhumane, with poor feeding and little to no medical care.

It was terrible. The food was the worst and sometimes not cooked properly in fact, people used to get sick all the time. One Ugandan died from a stomach infection. We used to eat something called “Chingwa”, that tasted like spoilt bread. Winter was the worst because we were given these thin blankets and no mattress.”

With the tireless help of his wife, jimmy was released from Harare remand centre in 2012 and on getting back to Uganda, the first thing he did was to get a job that would give him the funds to support these children.

A friend introduced me to a gentleman who gave me his car for business. I used to transport people most especially tourists and pay him UGX 300,000 every week. I got a very nice client called Mona, who I found out was the president of Children of prisoners, Sweden. After she left, I sent her an email asking for a meeting and she agreed to meet me. I told her about my vision and she seemed very excited about it. She was happy to meet someone who shared her vision.”

A few months later, Mona asked Jimmy to visit one of the children her organization sponsored, Chrispus, at his school.

When I visited him, he was excited that a stranger could come to see him. I kept visiting him on Visiting Days. He told me about his father who had been serving a long sentence in Luzira. I went to visit him and I asked him to introduce me to other people in the prison who I could talk to. I met people who would directed me to their families now my wife and I go to visit them and take for them some things.”

For four years now, Jimmy has conducted monthly visits to families of prisoners and has taken on the guardianship of Chrispus, who he regards as his first born. He also hosts an annual Christmas party for the children where he invites other children from the neighbourhood to make merry and meet father Christmas.

At one of the children’s Christmas parties Kasule has hosted

Jimmy believes that children, more so whose parents have been imprisoned, need to be loved and cared for so they do not find the need to commit any crimes and end up in prisons as well.

Would you like to support children of prisoners or volunteer on family visits? Please call/text Jimmy on 0774739500 or send him an email at

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Turning Rubbish into Money In The Fight Against Unemployment


Meet Calvin Matovu, a twenty-five-year old graduate from Makerere University who recycles wastes and rubbish into charcoal.

After attaining a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental science in 2013, Calvin searched for a job in vain. His life started becoming difficult as he had no source of income and he found it senseless to finish university and sit at idly at home.

In the struggle to fight unemployment, Calvin harnessed the idea of collecting wastes and rubbish from the community with his friends, to make some money.

“I asked myself, all this waste we collect and KCCA burns, can’t we reproduce a product out of it?’ Basing on my knowledge from campus, I came up with the idea of recycling wastes into charcoal.” Says Calvin at his factory in Erisa zone, Kyebando.

He set his plan in motion by gathering jobless youths in his community to create employment for themselves. Calvin and his team of seven started reusing wastes, especially organic wastes from agricultural products for example peelings from matooke. These are mixed with ash, clay, carbon and water to make a final product.

“At first we did not have market because people were already using charcoal from firewood with no clue about charcoal from wastes.” He says.

The idea of reusing garbage to make charcoal seems so unrealistic until he breaks down the process through which waste can be made useful and environment friendly.

“The raw materials include banana peelings, paper, clay, cow dung, cassava flour basing on your income level for example one can use clay or cow dung or cassava flour. The machines used are: a charring drum, crushing machine and a stick briquette machine. Peelings are collected and dried then sorted and grinded. Then they are burnt and put into the charring drum. The binder, which can be either  cassava porridge, clay or cow dung is added to the wastes mix and the mixture is then poured into the briquette machine. the last step is to dry the briquettes to produce charcoal. This is done in the drying rack.”

Calvin’s workmate sieving the raw material in the workshop

Calvin and his team have faced a number of challenges but this has not stopped them from going further.

“In the beginning, we used our hands to mould the charcoal which was very tiresome and it left our hands spoilt with dead skin in the palms. Our quality also wasn’t that good. The market too was very low but we never gave up.”

“Use what surrounds you” is a common saying that we often do not give attention too, but instead, we keep asking our leaders for help yet what’s surrounds us can be very useful in our daily life.

Basic principles of Physics state that “Effort + Load  = Work done.” Calvin’s hard work and desire to see his brilliant idea boom led him to overcome all the challenges that he and his team met. After months of several dynamics, critics and mental exhaustion, the season ended and he harvested fruits from his tree. Schools and some small companies started making orders for his charcoal. He has since received support from KCCA in form of a a manual machine that ended the hands era.

The briquettes are laid out to dry in the drying rack

Calvin Matovu now he employs twenty young people from his own community in Kyebando. The charcoal briquettes they manufacture cost UGX 1500 and last for over seven hours, which minimizes the daily costs also reducing demand for firewood.

“Anyone can do this anywhere at any time.” He says in conclusion. “Every person should base on talent at least 50% of their daily economic activities.”

The finished products. Briquettes ready to be sold.

This is a guest post by MARVIN MUTYABA, a student at Makerere University Business School, currently pursuing a Business Administration in his second year. He is passionate about entrepreneurship, skills development and fitness. 

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