BY BAMUTURAKI MUSINGUZI
THE LEADING stand-up comedians, Theatre Factory Uganda and the Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust (CSWCT) have launched ‘Laugh with a Chimp’ night at the National Theatre in Kampala to enlighten the masses on the plight of the chimpanzees through art.
In a skit titled, ‘Joseph the Chimpanzee’ performed on August 11, 2011, during Theatre Factory’s weekly comedy nite show at the National Theatre revolves around the predicament of a stranded uncle and his nephew, and a Nigerian tourist interested in seeing chimps.
The school boy gets his holidays. The uncle comes to pick him from school. They decide to pass by the bar and have a drink. They end up spending all the money and they are left with none for their transport from Jinja to Kampala. They come across a tourist who wants to see chimpanzees, and willing to offer any amount of money. The uncle comes up with idea of wearing the chimp costume that saves their situation.
The Nigerian tourist, who is initially glad to see the chimp that walks with a swagger and pulls b-boy (break-boy) stokes is later disappointed to hear the ape talk like a human being and walks away in protest. This results from the attempt by the uncle to walk away with the money the tourist has paid without sharing it with his nephew.
The night had twelve skits that included: ‘Hamisi and the Jinja Shift,’ ‘My elderly chic,’ ‘Soccer mum,’ ‘Annie’s under wear,’ ‘Mama mboga’s house help’ and ‘Urinary track,’ among others.
“Each year, Theatre Factory sets out to get involved in at least one social cause. We dedicated 2009 and 2010 to working with the Uganda Prison Service under the ‘Laugh for Life Project’ that focused on taking laughter and positive encouragement to Luzira Upper Prisons in Kampala,” the Theatre Factory Uganda director, Philip Luswata said.
“This year we felt the need to recognise the enormous strides that CSWCT is taking to conserve the Chimpanzee. We believe that our involvement with them will throw more light on this cause and encourage more Ugandans to make an effort to conserve their environment on one way or the other,” Luswata added.
“We hope to engage the masses in chimpanzee conservation programmes as we promote art at same time,” the CSWCT business development director, Ivan Kakooza said.
“Ugandans have long been known to have performance art through music, dance and drama as part of their livelihoods. You do not need wait for an occasion for our people to enjoy a good performance. This is what we are tapping into again,” Luswata said.
“Comedy is a fun, hip way of communicating some serious issues. I think the problem in the past has been that many advocates focus on delivering urgent messages in an uncool way. We have had a lot of tragedies that it all begins to sound like one swansong. We feel that comedy provides an avenue to not only educate, but also deliver these urgent messages in a uniquely funny way that people can carry in their hearts. It is easier to act upon something that brings you joy, than an item that brings you sadness,” Luswata observes.
Luswata has also been involved with the ‘Makutano Junction’ television series showing on citizen television in Kenya and NTV Uganda.
“For the next one year, we have decided to commit a percentage of our gate collections at our comedy nite performance that happens every Thursday at the National Theatre in Kampala to a chimpanzee we are adopting. These proceeds will go to its welfare and in a little way to basic overheads. So when you buy a ticket at each comedy nite show, you are donating to the Ngamba project,” Theatre Factory’s administrative director, Julius Lugaaya said.
“We are creating a video blog for the chimp we adopt as part of creating more awareness and crafting the message of conservation into our weekly comedy performances. There will also be a donation box set up at the National Theatre were a special donation can be made at any time of the day. None of these funds go to Theatre Factory operations. All donations collected in the donation box will be handed over to CSWCT every end of the month. Conserving our environment can be simple and fun,” Lugaaya added.
Theatre Factory Uganda started in 2003 is an independent theatre company whose principal task is to use arts in development projects there by equipping people with skills which increase their capacity for advocacy and participation in development of their own communities. They produced a DVD titled "Knock Yourself Out (2008),” showcasing their works.” Their television series, “Barbed Wire” currently in the fourth season on UBC Television also showed on NTV Uganda in 2009.
The CSWCT established in October 1998 cares for over forty orphaned rescued chimpanzees, by providing a sanctuary at Ngamba Island, Lake Victoria; promoting conservation education, public awareness, habitat restoration and improving livelihoods of local communities living alongside chimpanzee populations.
In June 2010, the nations of East and Central Africa developed a 10-year plan to save the eastern chimpanzee from hunting, habitat loss, disease, the capture of infants for the pet trade and other threats.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), 96% of known populations of eastern chimpanzees, that’s an estimated 50,000 individuals, could be protected with a new action plan, which puts stamping out illegal hunting and trafficking as key to saving one of man’s closest relatives.
The eastern chimpanzee is currently classified as Endangered on IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, and lives in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Zambia. Eastern chimpanzees share an estimated 98% of genes with Homo sapiens and are among the best studied of the great apes.
“Eastern Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii): Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan: 2010-2020,” calls for the conservation of 16 areas, which if protected would conserve 96% of the known populations of eastern chimpanzees, estimated to be around 50,000. However, the total number could be as high as 200,000, almost double the estimates that have been made previously.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
TITLE: SHELTON ISLAND & THE ONE I LOVE
AUTHOR: ROBERT MUWEREZA
REVIEWED BY: BAMUTURAKI MUSINGUZI
ROBERT Muwereza, Uganda’s promising young writer and poet seems to be gaining more literary energy with the release of his latest fictional novel carrying two short stories, “Shelton Island” and “The One I Love.”
“Shelton Island” is about the life of a six-year-old American boy called Kevin who survives a shipwreck and is rescued by Hensen, a Shilton chief. Hensen decides to raise Kevin secretly with the knowledge that once the Shiltons discover this, his life and Kevin’s will come to an end.
Above is the picture of Muwereza taken by MORGAN MBABAZI.
The Island of Shelton is far from modernity. Shiltons live in caves. Some build grass thatched tents; others build houses on trees or sleep wherever they think is safe. During the evening fires elders tell out stories and myths to the juveniles.
Kevin secretly falls in love with a Shilton princess, Keira. She later gets pregnant. When Hensen learns of the pregnancy he warns Kevin that: “There is so much mystery about the Shiltons. They will never accept a non Shilton to live with them. They believe all this island belongs to them. You better leave the mistress alone from today and forever!”
“Keira, you know very well the person you are to marry, don’t you? Hensen asked. “Yes I know, but here is my choice,” she responded.
After a lot of pleading for protection by Kevin and Keira, Hensen promises that: “Well, I will do my best but be prepared for the worst.”
Even after Hensen pleaded with Shiltons to accept Kevin into their society after 17 years of living in secrecy, the people did not show any form of appreciation and acceptance. It was as if Hensen had betrayed them. Hensen gave him a Shilton name – Isyle, which Kevin rejected.
Amidst rejection and fear, Kevin, who lost all members of his family lived on the isles working and leaning new things. His age mates often contended with him. His colour and texture was another disqualification. He was pale-brown skinned while the Shiltons were reddish-brown. His hair was brown compared to their long dark hair.
After an attempt to torture and throw him into the sea by a section of Shiltons, the Island’s father, Bacco rescued Kevin and appointed him to head the security of the kingdom.
Soon life on the isles is disrupted when greedy foreigners took it over and exploit its minerals and timber for export to far away lands. Armed with guns and led by Golo, the invaders force every Shilton, young and old to participate unwillingly in the colonialist exploitation. They work from sunrise to sunset.
Every evening Golo supplies them with toxic drinks to make them drank by night and by day to work – to work without asking for wages – to work without questioning him.
Some Shiltons revise the changes Golo had brought but cared little. To them food and liquors were enough. They thought of no redemption. They thought life was normal.
Prior to the outright plunder, Golo used to exchange the isles natural wealth with cloths, biscuits, chocolates, chewing gum, radios, generators, cassette tapes, bulbs, wires, bags, salt, knickers and liquors. He introduced alcohol abuse on the isles.
“The One I Love,” revolves around two young children: Elton and Elizabeth who fall in love and promise to marry when they grow up. Their dreams are shattered sadly when Elizabeth’s parents perish in car accident. Elizabeth is later taken away from Sacramento by her brother, Carlos, a notorious mafia to Mexico.
Elton is restless and longs for Elizabeth. He keeps getting memories of the missing Elizabeth - a girl who became an orphan at the age of six years. He decides to search the world till he finds her in Mexico. He meets his death while fighting with Carlos to return his childhood love to sacrament. Carlos and Elizabeth are also killed by police as they resist arrest.
Elton’s life is made up of determination, lack and misfortune. He rose within a short time from cleaner to head the cookery department of Hotel Boreen. He was the youngest among all the workers and managers. He executed his new responsibility with diligence and excellence which resulted into a remarkable increment in the profits for the hotel after a long time.
Nico, the owner of the hotel is pleased with Elton’s achievements and he appoints him as the overall manager. But Elton abandons a promising hospitality career following workplace intrigue, hate and malice.
Soon Elton was leading a secret gangster lifestyle. He only abandoned this dangerous life when his fellow gangster, George is killed when they were both attempting top break into a jewelry shop.
Elton leaves for Mexico after getting the address where to find Elizabeth. He is robbed at the hotel and is mugged on the streets. He is exploited in weekend boxing fights by Pablo. He does not understand exactly why he fought and yet he did not get what he was promised. He felt unsettled in his heart. Eventually he sneaks into Carlo’s mansion where his life ends in death.
BESIDES writing short stories ROBERT MUWEREZA also writes drama scripts. His short fictional novels include: The Wounded Soul, After Midnight, The Eye of Sorrow, Cecilia and Maybe Tomorrow. His dream is to work in the film industry and have his stories on the screen. He is a student at Kyambogo University. He talked to BAMUTURAKI MUSINGUZI. Excerpts:
When did you start writing? And what motivated you?
I was eleven years. I used to write and send out stories to newspapers that had 'children's corner.' When I was in my senior one at City High School, we used to read literature books. The book, 'African Child' by Kamara turned my mind around. The idea of writing a book birthed in my life. One year later I wrote a story about the life of a poor African child titled the 'The Wounded Soul,’ most of which was my life experience growing up in a very poor family.
How do manage to combine writing and poetry and from which do derive the most pleasure?
I can say the art of writing is God given. Poetry is circumstantial. Lines drop in my heart. Sometimes, it's out of emotions that I write what I feel. Sometimes I cry while writing poems. Sometimes I smile. Any poet will tell you that poetry is from the heart. And the best poem is that you write out of emotions, not thinking. Most of my books are fiction. Poetry and writing are linked. Each enhances the other.
Why do you prefer short stories?
I don't prefer short stories. Actually I admire big volume novels. Every time I look at the novels like the Painted House, The Da Vinci Code, Eleventh Estate, I think of writing big volumes. I have begun with small volumes.
Do you plan to venture into writing long stories in future?
Yes, I do. Am currently working on a novel that I hope will have over 300 pages. Writing long stories is a stage I have just reached.
You seem to tackle a number of topics in your works? Do you intend to specialize as you gain experience?
No, at the moment am looking at being Robert Muwereza the author. I want to be the best I can be and am doing a lot from which probably I will find what will make me the best Robert.
What hurdles have you encountered as a young writer?
The biggest one is; people undermining me and not believing a young man like me, a high school student can write a good story. Worse of all, my own family doesn't believe in me. They don't see sense in this business of novels. Actually that is why I am doing Statistics and Economics at Kyambogo University after which, I will pursue my heart that is taking on literature or join a movie academy in California, USA. The second challenge is; being discouraged by people even by my close friends. Publicity and technical support is another challenge.
Ugandans have a poor culture of reading. How should they be encouraged to read more?
Many people in Uganda are poor and troubled, too entangled and stressed that they can’t concentrate to read a story and finish it. People, start by reading one page of anything before you, someday you will read 100 pages. Am working with some people to put up a literature festival majorly to encourage and uplift the reading culture in Uganda.
What is your advice to young aspiring writers?
Writing and publishing is possible. Writing can change your life and future. You can turn those thoughts, ideas and stories into a novel that the world may like.
You have released a number of short novels what is your best?
My favorite book is Anna Banana. With that book, I feel a success managing to surface the life of Anna, an American who falls in love with a young Ugandan man who is a king to be. The world around them turns into a bitter one. Their journey of life is marked by the will to live, the courage to survive and the power to love. One thing, like any artist, we have a saying "The next work is the best one".
How would you gauge the Ugandan book industry and novels in particular?
In Uganda, we have a very poor book Industry where writing is given less attention. My first book wasn’t well received in Uganda. That is why I actually took on foreign literature. In America, Europe and Australia I am respected unlike here at home. We have a lot of talented authors who have died with untold stories because of the poor structure of Ugandan book industry. Few publishing houses will accept a literature manuscript but will welcome majorly academic/textbook manuscripts. I am lucky to have my books are published in America. Writing can shape the world. Even when the author is dead, the message goes on.