“Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks”- `Robert Frost
One famous poet Thomas Gray, was perhaps wise when he stated that poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn. The same could be said about Uganda Christian University (UCU)’s Grand Azania last week on February 27th only that this time, we could breath words and our thoughts were burning!
From great fine artists, to young and promising musicians, and to the poets, Uganda is full of talents yet to be exploited and exposed to the world– if only the media concentrated on appreciating beauty and talents in Uganda and not poverty porn, Idi Amin, Kony, Bad Black and stereo-typing.
This is a new generation aiming at breaking through the shadows of poetry, art and music legacy left behind by Okot p’ Bitek (Songs of Lawino, Ocol, Prisoner and Malaya), Timothy Wangusa (Salutations), Richard Ntiru (Tensions) and Susan Nalugwa Kiguli in poetry, Jak Katarikawe (Can I tell you something sister?), Fred Mutebi (Abandoned) and Geoffrey Kantazi (The Victim) in Fine art as well as Richard Kaweesa (Mama Uganda) And Stephen Rwangyezi (Ndeere Troupes) in Music. In simple terms, these are the new voices of a contemporary poetic, music and art revolution coming to Uganda!
This is a new generation of Joel, Luke, Gloria, Brian, Michael, Claire, Rhoda, Mercy, Vickie, Jeanne Paul and the Gang, Leonard, Jordan, Jonan, Shamilah, Juliet, TCLM among others, who proved to the audience that night that Uganda still had new and young talents in areas of poetry, art and music based at Uganda Christian University.
The event which was organized by Azania, UCU’s poetry, art and Music club (and thus the name Grand Azania), brought together all poetry, art and music lovers from the university administration, Lantern Meet of Poets, students, media and twitter to listen, follow and witness students exhibit their creative and untapped talents to the full house of enthusiastic audience both online and in the Hall.
Time check, 8:17pm and the first performer Vickie takes to the stage. Glowing under the candle lights on the beautifully designed stage, the young lady’s voice left men licking their mouths wishing to join the stage and dance the night away with her but alas! Her performance just left them yearning for more.
Claire, Rhoda and Stella’s performance of Sondela coupled with their awesome vocals, left many asking for more like Oliver Twist the same way dancers TCLM did with there rare dance moves which left the audience still wondering why they have not yet auditioned for the next Step Up Revolution dance movie. In short, these young lads define contemporary and original talent!
Michael’s rendition of John Legend’s All of Me, perhaps was the most remarkable musical performance of the night. He literacy sings better than John Legend himself. Calm and with hands firmly stuck to his guitar, Michael assured the ladies that Uganda is still home to romantic men who are better than the ones they wish and dream about on TV.
Joel Basoga, who took the stage later to perform Uganda in Three Minutes poem, spoke like a prophet of doom predicting the future of Uganda if the status quo is not changed. The poetic lines arrange in the best order and best time to suit the best situation, made his poem’s subject matter to remain the most deeply social and governance conscious poem of the night. His style and confidence, still emphasized the point that he remains the most loved,respected and adored poet at the Mukono based University.
Then came Leonard who by just mentioning his name, left ladies screaming like Justin Bieber had finally come to Uganda! Of course he did not disappoint. His poem, One Night Stand, was perhaps the best performed(or rather the best) piece of the night. It tells the story of a man who hooks up with a lady in the bar at night hoping to take her home but ends up losing the plot.
The poem World War Three: Love Edition Performed by Brian, Jordan and Bruno, cannot go unnoticed. It remained one of the most creatively written and extraordinarily liked poems of the night. The boys teaming up like the Three Musketeers who rather speaking like the three influential personalities during World War Two (Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill), took the violence and nuclear bombings from Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the mouths and ears of the listeners in the audience. They had everyone moved by the flow and content of the poem due to the creative organization of the words, rhyme, rhythm and structure of the poem.
By the time the event ended at 10:20pm with the performance of Essie and Timothy CODE, the audience left regretting why the show happens only once in a semester yet it is one way of appreciating our own and have fun in a university founded on Christian values.
From us, it was fun and at the same time inspirational to witness a new breed of Ugandans who are using arts, music and poetry to tell stories of dignity and love about Uganda and her people which have not been told anywhere before. It is through such stories, that we get the true meaning and definition of The Pearl of Africa and celebrate our identity and cultures.
“Poetry is not only a dream and vision: it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before”
– Audre Lorde
An Interview with Mugabi: An Artist Who Makes Sculptures out of Clay
Mugabi represents a section of talents artists that you rarely see. Being a sculptor, this is a field that has few players making it a unique one. We start down with him to learn a little more about his creative process and working life and we bring you the conversation.
Tell us about your background. Where did your life as an artist begin?
My mother is a visual artist but has not made art in two decades. I used to watch her paint in 1994-1995. I spent most of my childhood drawing movie characters. My favorite characters were Jesus and Michael Jackson. I did not do art in O’ Level but did it in A’ Level. My best art papers were human figure and imaginative composition. In high school, my friends paid me to make their portraits. I did not do Fine Art at University. I am a self-taught sculptor.
How and when did you adopt your particular style and medium?
I got the idea to do sculpting in 2008 during my S6 vacation but never pursued it. In 2009, the euphoria from Michael Jackson’s death made me revisit the idea to sculpt. Between 2010 and 2013, I tried out different material such as paper Mache but never got what I had in mind. In 2014, I zeroed in on clay as the medium. I adopted my style in October 2015.
There are thousands of accomplished artists in Uganda. What does it take to develop your particular if not unique niche in that world?
It takes a lot of exposure to different styles and art forms. It requires patience since there is no formula in choosing what you enjoy doing. The more practice and exposure, the easier it is to understand yourself which in turn makes your niche unique.
What is there to gain by making sculptures?
I get to meet people to share my gift.
When did you make your first sculpture?
I made my first sculpture in November 2014.
What artists inspire your work and style?
Adam Reeder, Tip Toland, Amelia Rowcroft and Stuart Williamson.
What obstacles do you face in making and exhibiting your work?
Portraiture in clay takes more time to make which means you cannot come up with a standard timeframe. Planning is affected from the business point of view. I need to setup a permanent physical gallery to showcase my work.
What are your favorite sculptures you have made?
Amama Mbabazi and Paul Kagame sculptures are my favorite.
What do you hope is your legacy as an artist?
I hope my legacy will be that my work transcended art forms which means inspiring creatives in music, fashion, poetry.
What motivates you as an artist?
Seeing how far I have come in terms of skill and being aware that I have a long way to go.
What is your dream project?
I have many including working on a movie set. My time is yet to come.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Expect a never before seen gallery which will be a must visit for international and local tourists. A school will be setup to teach anyone interested especially the youth.
What advise can you give to beginning artists?
Expose yourself to the best work. Do not undersell your work if it’s great.
How This Man’s Striking Photography is Making Bobi Wine an Internet Sensation
On April 26 this year, one of Uganda’s most popular musicians openly declared his intentions to venture into politics, an announcement that sent a mix of waves across the country. Bobi Wine who had for long used his music to advocate for social justice, democracy and transparency in the political leadership was now taking these issues to the Parliament as a legislator.
One can not scrutinize the popularity of Bobi Wine’s month long campaign (and him becoming a Member of Parliament) without appreciating the role played by social media. Everyday, social media was awash with photos and videos of crowds at his rallies, enthusiastic supporters doing the most craziest things, his door to door campaigns and his adored wife Barbie who stood by him all the while.
But hidden beneath the surface, were anonymous faces that played an equally if not more significant part in turning the election (and status) in Bobi’s favor.
One of these faces was (and remains) Andrew Natumanya, commonly named ‘Tabz’ who kept the lens on the events that characterized the month long campaign trail and Bobi Wine’s political figure today as his official photographer.
The Story of Andrew Natumanya
A naughty Andrew while in Primary Two (P.2) one day defied school regulations and brought hard corn to class.
The teacher caught him crunching on the corn and asked what he had been eating, Andrew said he was eating tabs (tablets). The teacher searched his bag only for the corn to spill on the floor attracting an outburst of laughter from his classmates. Andrew had got a new name for himself – Tabz.
When I sat down with 24-year-old Tabz, a student of law at Makerere University recently to get a sense of his relationship with Bobi and his reflections of the campaign, I asked him how he ended up into photography.
“I did Law to please my parents and to award their efforts. They did all they could do to educate the four of us (him and his siblings). So I struggled hard to reward their efforts,” he tells me.
During his time at Makerere University, Tabz had focused more through the camera lens than he had focused on acquainting himself with court cases and law related literature. Suffice to say, photography is also a gene he inherited from his father who too had passion for it.
Growing up, Tabz would borrow cameras from friends and take photos and in the process, the interest grew. Then, he began trying more angles and people loved his work.
An election campaign at the university was the propelling point in his pursuit to grow his skill in photography. When his friend Andrew Mujinya chose to contest for Guild Presidency at Makerere University, Tabz was responsible for handling social media for the campaign, so, later he realized they needed photography.
All this while, he had been using borrowed cameras until he finally realized he needed to buy his own camera. And when he put the request to his sister and mother three years ago, they supported him to purchase one at Ush 2.2 million.
“Before I knew it, I was lost in photography more than what I was studying,” Tabz says.
And Kampala being the buzz of activity that it is, Tabz found a window of opportunity in the regular protests, concerts, parties and other events to take photos and share them on social media. To this day, he makes time and sets off on foot around the city to take random shots. You never know where you will land a captivating shot.
Away from the one off photography gigs, Tabz, did media work with Uganda Police, a job that later put him in the middle of some political controversy. On August 10 2016, a day that the Inspector General of Police (IGP) was expected to appear before the Makindye court over allegations of police brutality, Tabz was present to take photos as his work demanded.
When chaos broke out between protesters supporting the IGP and those against, one of the local televisions singled out Tabz and reported that he was among those instigating violence.
“They alleged that I was there to cause commotion, which wasn’t the case. They quickly judged on plain sight. I was only doing media which had nothing to do with Police operations. I don’t like that they’ve never come out to apologize,” in a disgruntled tone, he tells me. That day has stuck with him to date.
He says this incident cast him in bad light especially in the eyes of his friends. But at the same time, it inspired him to work hard to challenge the image the media had portrayed of him.
This aside, his challenges have been; access restrictions by some government organs especially security agencies and limitations in photography equipment due to insufficient funds.
Working with Bobi Wine
“He’s been a friend of mine for a long time. I liked his music like anyone else, then I started paying keen attention to his lyrics and it appeared as though he was singing about my life.” he answers when I ask how he got to work with Bobi.
Tabz never could have predicted that at one point, he would be a close associate to his icon (Bobi Wine) let alone become his official photographer. Every person has an encounter with luck that turns their life around, never to be the same again. For Tabz, this was the day he took his very first photo at Bobi Wine’s political campaign.
As the campaign gathered momentum, he secured a leave from his Police work to concentrate on his friend’s political bid in Kyadondo East.
“When you have a friend and they have a wedding, you would have something to contribute. When Bobi Wine was campaigning, I was working for Police. I asked and they granted me leave.” Andrew explains.
He recalls calling Bobi Wine three days into the campaign. “I asked him ‘Bobi, where are you?’ He told me he was already in the campaign and asked me to join in.”
“He didn’t know I would come with my camera because he hadn’t really picked interest in my photography. I spent the entire day taking pictures. But my relationship with him helped me. He quickly became my model and it was easy when I asked him to pose for the camera,” Tabz narrates.
It did not take me time to get a sense of the strong rapport that the two (Bobi Wine and his photographer) have built. Our interview is interrupted by a phone call and Tabz is speaking to Bobi Wine about a request by one of the television stations seeking the MP to appear on a political show later in the week. From the tone of their interaction, you can tell that Tabz is much more to Bobi Wine than just a photographer. Sometimes he offers advice and Bobi Wine heeds to it.
In the campaign, after a long day’s work, Tabz would take the photos to Bobi Wine, but it took a while for him (Bobi), he says, to believe it was him taking the photos. As opposed to what many may think – that Bobi Wine’s social media accounts are ran by handlers, Tabz tells me “He [Bobi] personally chooses which photos to post and posts them.”
He chose to resign his job at Police because he realized “that there was a lot of untold stories to Uganda.”
What stands out in his recollection of the time he spent with Bobi Wine pursuing political support is how hectic the daily campaign program got, not only for Bobi but everybody on the campaign team. Their daily routine began as early as 5am before setting out on a door to door campaign where Bobi Wine solicited support from individual households and later climaxed with a rally at 4pm.
“Everyday started with small pockets of people but numbers gradually grew into crowds of people and a lengthy motorcade. You never knew where people came from,” Tabz recounts.
“There’s a day we met a certain man who had a truck. He had doubts that Bobi Wine was part of the procession. He couldn’t believe us until we showed Bobi to him. He surrendered the truck to us for free for the campaign,” he says.
Whereas the gazetted time to end campaigns was 6pm, Tabz’s work was only halfway by this time. It is about the same time that he sat down and began sorting through the photos he had captured the entire day before submitting them to Bobi Wine. He prides in the fact that his work always ended up being posted on Bobi wine’s social platforms even when there were numerous other photographers trailing the campaign.
Amid the busy schedule, limited rest time and negotiating edgy angles to get the perfect shots, Tabz remembers the hardworking nature of Bobi Wine’s wife, Barbra Kyagulanyi (Barbie). “The inner circle of the campaign team comprised of at least 20 people. But Barbie woke up early and prepared breakfast for us all by herself,” he says.
I asked him where he strikes the balance between doing his work while ensuring he doesn’t invade Bobi Wine and his family’s private space. At first he laughs it off, before saying; “What are private moments? Bobi Wine no longer has a private life because he is a public figure. There’s not a time when his home is not occupied by over 20 people.”
“You’ve seen photos of him and his daughter which has been trending of late.”
But he quickly adds; “I am an adult and I know what is fit for public consumption and what should be restricted.”
Different people understand Bobi Wine differently. But for someone who has been quite close to Bobi since he joined politics, Tabz describes him as one who is “always ready to stand for the truth even when he stands alone”.
The famous photo when Bobi Wine was blocked at Entebbe
September 22 was not the best day for Bobi Wine but it is certainly a day that Tabz might live to recall for all the good reasons. The day his photo became an internet sensation, attracting lots of credit on social platforms. Bobi Wine had just landed at Entebbe International Airport from the U.S and on his way to Kampala, police blocked him and demanded that he goes to the police station to record a statement.
It is in that chaos that Tabz took a photo of Bobi Wine with head protruding the roof of his SUV, both arms raised – holding the Uganda flag in his right hand and the constitution booklet in the left hand. Two police pickups stood in front of his car while a few people surrounded Bobi Wine’s car.
The photo, tweeted by Bobi Wine on the very day with a caption “Wake up Uganda” has so far been retweeted close to 1,000 times and attracted close to 2,000 likes. It is among Bobi Wines most engaging and shared photos on Twitter.
“We were coming from the airport, the Police blocked us. When this happened, in a short time, people started converging and the place became full,” Tabz narrates to me.
He adds; “We were there for about an hour. But when I looked at the way the police trucks were packed, I wondered how I could shoot the entire scene. I went behind the trucks and I took the shot.”
“But it was on time because Police had put barricades trying to stop him but on his part, he was arguing ‘I am Ugandan and I am defending my constitution’ (raising a flag in one hand and the constitution in another). But he did it for a few seconds and I captured the moment.”
Responding to the praises that the Entebbe photo has attracted on social media, he tells me it makes him feel “energized” and “challenged” at the same time.
Tabz says he has tried to learn from photographers that are better than him. He is inspired by well timed shots. “Someone takes a picture of a lion jumping on a kob. The lion won’t do it four times for you to get the best shot. So photography is like life. Once a moment is gone, you can never get it,” says Tabz.
I ask Tabz whether it’s true that photographers must think ahead of events or whether some shots just come out of mere luck.
“There’s no shot that comes out of luck. There has to be effort to have your output. If you are going to the field and you want to be comfortable and smart, you won’t get the best work out of you.”
His magic trick is keeping his eye on the lens.
The risk of working with Bobi Wine
When I rang Tabz to schedule an interview, he didn’t hesitate to it. Part of the reason was that given his work in the context of Uganda’s politics, he wasn’t sure where tomorrow would land him. In other words the stakes are high and the risks involve being arrested.
But he is not scared by any of this.
“I am not intimidated. Freedom and positive change never come on a silver platter,” he replies when I asked whether he is not afraid.
“I am 24 years old and am very sure that H.E Yoweri Museveni won’t be alive n the next 20 years whether he likes it or not. Will I still be jailed? All I know, history will remember me for having fought using what I know best. I know they will confiscate my camera but we shall overcome.”
People like Tabz who are in circles of vocal and provocative opposition politicians are not the most secure people especially in Uganda. In fact, recently, after the infamous brawl in Parliament, his equipment was confiscated by security operatives for no clear reason.
He trailed Bobi Wine the day he got arrested from Parliament to Nagalama several miles outside Kampala. Tabz had been taking photos and making Twitter updates all through the way. But he later noticed a certain Prado with private number plates with UPDF officers was following them.
“The Prado by passed us and parked. Then another vehicle came following and officers rounded us up. My bag was taken and my friend was arrested”. His bag contained two phones, pairs of lenses, cables, a power bank among other things.
“When I went to pick them, they chased me away and threatened to detain me,” he tells me.
“I gave up. I can’t start fighting the entire army of police who are armed. I can’t even challenge them in court. So, i have no option, I will work hard, save more and hope that God will provide.”
He suspects that the entire team working with Bobi Wine is being spied on by security agents who will stop at nothing to break the spirit. “Even when I buy other lenses, I know they will come and get them but that is the oppression we live in.”
Photography in era of social media
With the fast rise of the internet age, many photographers are increasingly establishing a footprint on social media as a way of showcasing their work and pushing their brands. For some, the results have been positive.
Tabz says social media is by far the biggest tool of branding and advertisement. “When you write something in the newspapers or television, but it is difficult to retrieve it as opposed to if someone had it on their phone. Internet does not forget.”
“I value social media a lot,” he says.
The impact of Tabz’s photos has been that their reach on social media has attracted wide attention to the growing political influence that Bobi Wine has had in Uganda in his few months as an MP. So, while Bobi might take all the credit for his people centric political ideals, but the magnitude in which social media has scored extra points for him can’t be underestimated. And Tabz is at the centre of this.
Lately, his posts especially on Twitter are consistently tilting towards photojournalism. If anything were to happen to Bobi Wine, Tabz, is likely to be the first person to break the news. And he has built credible trust given his work with Bobi. Whether Bobi has been arrested, holding a music show, at home interacting with guests or in Namboole stadium cheering the national soccer team, Tabz will feed live updates or post the happenings later through his social media.
Soldiers saluting Bobi Wine and claims that he met with President Museveni
There were recent claims making rounds on social media that Bobi Wine met with President Yoweri Museveni, after photos emerged showing soldiers saluting him during the night. I jokingly asked Tabz whether he has photos of the alleged meeting in his archives.
“This is either a plan by the government to spread propaganda to tarnish Bobi Wine’s name or the opposition trying to stay on top of the news,” Tabz comments.
“Those pictures were taken in Budaka. We came from a concert in Kyotera and drove through Kampala. Why would people allow to be confused? We have cameras and photographic evidence of where we were and what time.”
Tabz reveals to me that there are various other photos of soldiers, policemen and prisons personnel in different places saluting Bobi Wine but which he feels there’s no cause for Bobi Wine to explain himself.
Photography as a career?
“I told you I did Law to reward the efforts of my parents. They will be rewarded by a transcript (academic document). Once they finally get the transcript, to well with the Law. I must go for where my passion is. How many lawyers do we have and how many photographers do we have?” he says.
But beyond still photography, Tabz also films videos including documentaries and TV commercials.
Tabz says his transition to photojournalism is driven by the realization that “from photography, is a lot of information I could give to the public”
Some of his mentors including the NBS TV CEO Kin Karisa have also wooed him into weaving a career in journalism and he is beginning to.
He intends to “put out fire with fire” by building himself as an investigative journalist.
Some of his career destinations include working with local media like NBS TV as well as international media organizations like Aljazeera, AFP and the BBC.
But first, he says he needs to build up his skill set.
To his fellow millenials, Tabz says they should learn not to despise jobs.
In Conversation with Kalule, A visual Artist Linking Youth with their Role Models through Art
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 multi-talented young people in Uganda lack opportunities that recognize and support their talents and above all help support their development. This is evident that many multi-talented young people here in Uganda don’t reach to their full potentials due to lack of mentor-ship 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
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