Thursday, September 13, 2012


VERSATILE as ever, Isaiah Katumwa, one of Uganda’s leading saxophonists used his recent live recording of his official video concert to share his personal musical challenges and success with his fans.

At the concert held on July 20, 2012, at the Kampala Serena Hotel, Katumwa recorded his old songs and new ones at the event attended by his fans that came from as far as Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania after parting with Ushs100,000 ($40).

Passionately blowing his soprano and alto saxophones, Katumwa took his fans through his musical journey that has not been smooth at all at the show sponsored by Tusker lager beer. He managed to tell his life story before each song right from his time as a struggling unknown musician to a reputable jazziest today.

Katumwa kicked off the two-and-half hour show with one of his latest songs “Swahili Breeze” off his forthcoming album. He described it as smooth Jazz and divine originating from East Africa. “It is important to be original,” he said.

“Africa is my identity even if I am in China I am passionate about not being mistaken through my music. But also am passionate about my God because I wouldn’t be here today, if it wasn’t for him,” he added.

Electrified he welcomed his fans to the Isaiah Katumwa 2012 Exclusively Live show thus: “It has been three years since I last did a concert. Thank you for coming.”

Katumwa then followed it up with his other new song “Journey.” “It is about the hard times and things we go through to arrive where we want,” he told his audience refereeing to his own low and high moments.

Katumwa’s childhood was difficult – he had no permanent home and had to work to raise his school fees. His hardship began with the breakup of his family, leaving him to stay with relatives and fend for himself.

The stages effects included videos with black and white pictures of Katumwa’s childhood and musical journey that began at the age of 10 at the Reverend John Junior Academy in Kitintale, Kampala with traditional instruments and later the trumpet before falling in love with the sax.

As to the importance of the concert, Katumwa told The EastAfrican: “After not doing any concert Kampala for the last three years, there has been demand especial the fact that I was doing it annually. But more importantly I wanted to record my official video.

He was accompanied by Amani Baya (drums), James Sewakiryanga (percussions), Joshua Mutebi (bass guitar), James Gogo (main Keyboard/piano), Steve Kigozi (second Keyboard/piano), Charmant Mushaga (lead guitar), Hum Kay (vocals), Sheila Katumwa (vocals), Rachel Namubiru (vocals), Geoffrey Sekalere (trumpet) and Joseph Ategeka (Alto Sax).

He also played “Suddenly” and “Sun Rise” off his 2009 album “Another Step.” “Sun Rise” is flavoured with rhythms from West Africa and South Africa

Before performing “Arise Afrika” he declared: “We (Africa) should resist circumstances that detect our future. It is time we arise and resist wars, diseases, poverty and all sorts of limitations.”

As he was about to play “Mama” Katumwa said: “I am passionate about Africa despite the problems we are facing. Let us tell mother Africa – the wonder of the world to wake up because we are strong, wealthy and beautiful and can shine and overcome the challenges.”

Katumwa also performed “Kitaffe,” a song he last played in 2007 and never recorded. It has basimba and kadodi rhythms. “This is Our Lord’s prayer in our African way,” he said.

Then there was “Sinza (“worship”) off the 2006 “Sinza” album. “This is the album that brought me to the public attention when I was struggling in the industry. This album pushed me a big step in my career in 2006. This is a clearly gospel song. A chorus that has featured in Pentecostal churches for many years,” he stated.

Mushaga stood out and spiced the show with his great guitar licks much to the delight of the audience.

Katumwa was also joined by Maurice Kirya and Michael Ouma both on guitars and performed Kirya’s ballad “Ugandan Girl.”

Katumwa played “Special Feeling” referring to our intimate feelings. “Love is what we can witness by the special feeling we get inside,” he said.

Katumwa performed “Thank You” dedicated to his amazing fans. He played “Nobody Like you” a love song that reassures the one you love.

Gogo, who was energetic throughout the show on the keyboards, played his song “Kilele.”

Regarding his working with Gogosimo, Katumwa said, “He is more to me a younger brother than a musician friend. He is a great guy to work with.”

Katumwa has developed a programme to help talented young musicians under his Parapanda Music EA label.

A promising young singer Rachael Namubiru sang “Tata Nzize” a song written by Katumwa. It is a prayer to God for help.

Hum Kay performed one of his songs called “Why Don’t You Love Me” off his “Olinange” album.

Asked whether the sponsorship from Tusker larger beer was not conflicting with his strong Christian beliefs, he argued: “I am a musician professionally and that is what Tusker is interested in supporting. That doesn’t change who I am, African, smooth and divine.”

He adds that his relationship with Tusker has not caused problems with his fans.

He has promised to release his tenth album next year. Asked whether releasing his albums at a fast rate is not going to affect the quality of his music, Katumwa replied: “I have improved my content through this time and my rising opportunities demand better. Many of my albums also are off the market waiting to be improved.”


Tuesday, June 26, 2012


CONTRARY to the wildly held belief that Africa’s low standards of living and gross inequalities are as a result of bad leadership, a visibly angry president of a fictitious nation in a poem subtitled “State of the Nation Undressing,” shifts the blame to his citizens.

In the poem that is part of a three-part poem titled “National Broadcast,” the president, who has no kind words for his citizens complains about the inadequacies of the people he has been “forced to govern.”

He begins with the question of colour. Some of his citizens, he observes are simply too black, too dusky, shadowy, too dim, not quite the right hue. They are likely to darken their state, make developed nations believe therein lies Africa’s black heart.

The president even wonders whether the nomads belong to his nation. They wander about with their cows and goats never staying in one place long enough to be known. How is government supposed to be sure where they belong? He asks how they can reconcile their modern ways, their love for the stock market, the Internet – developments that tell the world they are modern – with the nomad’s outlandish and outdated nomadic customs. “You badly reflect on this progressive nation,” he declares.

On their part political scientists and development experts attribute Africa’s poor state of affairs to the widespread economic crisis and political disorder that has resulted into protracted and vicious civil violence.

The president singles out the poor as the very worst of all because they insist on being poor. Their transgressions include the tendency to congregate in slums. Their affinity for suffering, pain, and crime creates a dangerous state. With their kiosks and street hawking, they show no regards for government’s attempts at central planning.

The poem was part of Betty Walamwa Muragori writing as Sitawa Namwalie’s dramatized poetry performance of her collection titled “Cut off My Tongue,” that premiered in Uganda at the National Museum on May 11, 2012, in Kampala.

Cut off My Tongue, that was directed by Namwalie and co-directed by Alice Karunditu is a bold, proactive and captivating story of Kenya. It is about African lives – the good, the bad and the hugely entertaining. It rants, sweats, breaks into song and dance as it explores the truths that shape Africans: their beliefs, the way they behave and why.

Cut off My Tongue that has been performed at the Hay Festival (UK) is a spirited invocation to Africans to colonise and mould their own history. It is about land, tribe, personal discovery, identity and relationship.

The poems were read out by Namwalie and Karunditu. They were accompanied by instrumentalist Willy Rama.

As for the regrettable polythene innovation they call the ‘flying toilet,’ they destroy government’s best efforts to enhance hygiene standards. “…Your colour, your tradition, your poverty – I have been informed by my special advisors your intentions are suspect indeed,” the president warns.

“If I was not a good Christian I would be in despair at being surrounded by so many unsavoury types who willfully refuse to support our grand cause: the creation of a modern African nation,” the president concludes.

The poem “Land of Guiltless Natives” underscores the importance of land in the existence of the Kenyan society. “Our fascination with land is a top ranking Kenyan vice – women, Tusker Lager, and land, and not necessarily in that order. We obsess about it, we want it – Large tracts of it, small pieces, plots 4m by 4m, our fixation an irrational passion we kill for,” the poem goes in part.

The ugly side of tribalism is played out in the poem “Language of Tribe.” Tribe is a sharp acid on the tongue. Tribe grates loudly in one’s ears, it demands to be heard. It makes one to act secretly. Count the members of the Church Council and tally the number of times his/her tribe emerges in the media. When the appearance is favourable, he or she smiles.

The poem “Nameless” laments the dying tradition of naming in Africa. Names of African family trees are unique, exotic, barely heard among our generation. The names from the past carry meanings long forgotten, greater than mere names.

“We used to name after dead ancestors – they sent a sign when they wanted to live again. But amongst those with whom I walk this earth tradition has become distorted. It appears only a few ancestors ask to be reborn, most seem happy to stay dead!” the poem goes in part.

Africans have therefore lost their connection with their ancestors and instead adopted alien names some of which do not carry any meaning and we cannot even pronounce. They ape other people’s cultures. A people without history become slaves of history.

The other recited poems were “Would You” “I Come From Everywhere” and “Say My Name!” From her other show called “Home Coming,” were: "Oprah Endorses the Toi Market Support Group," "Tell Me Your Name," and "Names of the Dead"

"Oprah Endorses the Toi Market Support Group," is a satirical take on the Africans love and excitement for shopping for the used clothes and other goods discarded by the west.

“…We all aspire for the same things. I want Manalo Blanick shoes as much as a woman living in New York City, a desire fueled by both of us watching "Sex and the City.” And now although I don't have hundreds of dollars to spend on new ones I can find them in places like Toi Market. There is sorrow and humor in our lives,” Namwali said.

"Names of the Dead" is Namwali’s commemoration of the 1,300 people that died during the 2007/2008 post-election violence in Kenya. “There is such official silence on the terrible deaths of these people and the women, children and men that were raped, the lives squandered and ruined. This poem stands as a memorial for their deaths and all other similar deaths in the terrible unnecessary conflicts in Africa and around the world,” she says.

“…And why do we ignore the bones of our dead, their memories? After all Africans have created a compelling story about the dead, are they not our ancestors? Have you ever been to a grave yard where the British war dead lie side by side next to the African dead? It’s shocking. One part is clean well-kept and clearly cared for. The African side is full of weeds, broken and forgotten,” Namwali adds.

On the importance of premiering in Uganda, she said: “Really I want to perform everywhere in Africa and then also go all over the world. This is the second country in our world tour. Uganda is close to Kenya in so many ways, we share so much in terms of culture, history and poor governance. I think we have similar conversations about ourselves. I want to support the growing cultural exchange that others have started. We can only learn and build each other. I want to help unleash Africa's creativity and self-confidence.”

Regarding the reaction of the Ugandan audience, Namwali observed, “They loved it and recognised themselves in the poetry. Many in the first show came to the second show and many told me how much they loved it. We also good press in the local media.”

Namwali has plans to take her productions to the other East African countries as well. “…Taking the show to Uganda gave me “reconstituted confidence…”

Regarding the prospects of dramatized poetry in East Africa, she says: “Several people in Uganda said they have now seen something that they will emulate. I look forward to artists unleashed discovering new and exciting ways in which to tell our stories because at the end of the day that is what Cut off my Tongue is, a story, our story.”

Cut off my Tongue may be set in Kenya but it is about Uganda it is about Africa. An important overall technique used by “Cut off my Tongue” is to problematize the dialogue on topics such as land or tribe/tribalism for example. In this way it explodes many myths and points of view, which are accepted as everyday truths. Rather than taking the commonly held myth of a situation such as tribalism is the fault of politicians for granted, problematization poses that knowledge as a problem, allowing new viewpoints, consciousness and self-awareness, reflection, hope, and action to emerge.

It is not surprising then many in audiences have left “Cut off My Tongue” feeling optimistic, inspired to action despite some of the bleak and dark imagery and emotions evoked by many of the pieces.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012


BY BAMUTURAKI MUSINGUZI FOR the beneficiaries of the “land bonanza” in Uganda who are infamous for grabbing parks and gardens all in the name of modernity – a new book on gardening may give them an opportunity to appreciate the value of green public places in an urban setting. Titled “Simply Paradise Tropical Gardening Plants” by Winifred Rukidi, the book is a colourful descriptive guide providing expert information on tropical gardening plants to both novice and experienced gardeners in the tropical region; particularly East Africa, about how to identify plants and grow them successfully. Each of the 250 pages comes with the beauty of flowers, plants and gardens. With over 400 coloured pictures the author brings nature closer to the reader without necessarily strolling through a garden. Winifred illustrates and explains each flower and plant in detail, and the best suitable environment to grow each of them. Each picture is identified by the scientific, common and family name. Information on plant habit, growth rate, soil, water and sunshine requirement is provided. Of course advice on garden planning and placing of the plants is also given. “Medicinal use of parts of the plants is mentioned, but caution should be taken, since most are not scientifically proven,” she warns. Divided in eleven chapters the contents cover trees, palms, shrubs, climbers, ground covers, grasses, flower bed plants, water plants, orchids and star performers that can successfully grow in the tropics. Among the trees is the Red bottle brush, a common tree in East Africa which is loved by birds, butterflies, bees and flies. The flowers with their long, profuse, coloured stamens are clustered around and down the stem resembling bottle brushes. There is the Flamboyant flame tree – a large and tall ornamental tree. Also included is the evergreen Potato tree, the Jacaranda mimosifolia, Spectacular cassia, Sea almond, Frangipani, Silver oak, Weeping fig and Fire bush, among others. Among the shrubs is Yesterday, today and tomorrow (Brunfelsia calycina). The common name is derived from yesterday’s purple flowers, today’s violet flowers and tomorrow’s white flowers. Its flowers have a strong scent. The other shrubs are the Tecoma capensis (Cape honeysuckle), Red flag bush, Cardinal’s hat, Flame of the woods, China rose/Chinese hibiscus, Cooper leaf, Angel’s trumpet, Dwarf poinciana and Crape jasmine, among others. The orchids include the Vanda tricolor that has a strong fragrance that comes from its multi-colored flower. There is the Miss joaquim, Grapette ground orchid, Blue orchid, Dendrobium, Cattleya bowringiana, Black jack orchid, Dancing ladies and Princess mikasa, among others. Winifred is a professional gardener and landscaping consultant who has for more than 15 years enjoyed the gift of transforming ordinary gardens into paradises in both commercial and residential areas. She has designed the gardens of Protea Hotel in Kampala, among others. For the last ten years she has been writing a weekly gardening column in the Saturday Vision, which has inspired this book. According to Winifred, gardening is an activity which involves the art and skill of growing plants in a designated place like; one’s residence, public places such as parks, and botanical gardens. The garden at times may not be restricted to the ground but could be in containers, on window sills, in hanging baskets, on rooftops or patios. Water gardening covers water loving plants, creating ponds, or gardening in bog areas. Gardening constitutes landscaping a piece of land into reasonable contours before planting. There are other aspects that come with landscaping, such as installing pavers, steps, retaining walls and fences. According to Winifred, before you create your garden, first get to know your needs and your family’s needs. Think of how you wish to use your garden. Do you want to have a big lawn for you to relax and entertain? Is the garden to be used by small children riding bicycles? Do you wish to grow herbs and vegetables, as well as flowers? “The lifestyle will also be a determining factor of what to put in the garden. For example, those interested in entertaining will find that a barbecue area is necessary. An outside dining room on a raised wooden deck might be another option. A swimming pool with an area for parasols and decking chairs maybe another idea,” Winifred writes. “Apart from your needs you must not ignore the architectural styles of your house, office block or school lay out. Most common in East Africa is the bungalow style, which is presented in a one-storey frame house with a covered veranda on one or more sides,” she adds. According to Winifred, institutions such as schools, colleges and universities have a formal temperament, which must be reflected in the design of the grounds and in the style of planting. The design will take into account the numerous needs, which include structures such as pathways, car parks, swimming pools, and tennis courts. Ends.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


BY BAMUTURAKI MUSINGUZI DECEMBER 9, 2011, marked the fourth anniversary of the death of Uganda's best-known playwright and one of East and Central Africa's leading dramatists, John Ruganda - to the deadly cancer of the throat. In the early 1970s, Ruganda featured prominently on the East African theater scene not only as a playwright but also as a stage director, actor, and teacher of drama and theater arts at various institutions of learning. He published many plays, poems and short stories. Among his published plays, “The Burdens” (1972) and “The Floods” (1980) have been used regularly as required texts in the ordinary and advanced level syllabi of the Literature in English courses in Kenya and Uganda. Virtually all of his plays are studied in universities and other institutions of higher learning in East and Central Africa. His other literary works were “Black Mamba” (1972), “Covenant of Death’ (1973), ‘Echoes of Silence’ (1985), ‘Music Without Tears” (1981) and “Igereka and Other African Narratives” (2002). Ruganda’s television screenplays were: “The Secret of the Season,” (Voice of Kenya, March 1973), “The Floods,” (Voice of Kenya, April 1973), and “The Illegitimate,” (Voice of Kenya, August 1982). In much of his work, Ruganda came across as the voice of the voiceless. His plays satirised the oppressive and greedy tendencies of the political regimes against the common man. His plays "reflect the reality of the East African sociopolitical situation after independence." He was considered a shaping force of East African Theater with his works winning critical acclaim. Retaining a fine line between humour and hard-hitting sarcasm, he scoffed at corruption, selfishness and manipulation of the powers that be. As to what legacy that Ruganda left in the theatre industry not only in Uganda but the entire East African region, the folklorist and playwright, Dr. Mercy Mirembe Ntangaare says, “John Ruganda was dedicated to theatre – as literary art but also as an expressive/performing art. He didn’t go or stay in theatre for money but his genuine love of art. I respect him for this.” “I never met Ruganda physically as an artist – except briefly as he visited Uganda in the 1990s when I did my MA research and towards the end of his life, around 2005/2006. In other words, we never knew each other on personal terms. Even then he was keen to listen to me to find out what I had to say/write about him when I appraised some of his plays on my MA (Literature) course. That demonstrated his humility and a mark of scholarship that is very rare in artists who gain world fame,” Ntangaare, the deputy dean of the faculty of arts at Makerere University, adds. “When he fled Uganda in the late 1970s and went to Kenya, he took with him his love for theatre in the form of popularizing the Traveling Theatre. The traveling theatre is not your form of commercial theatre or even easy to organize. One goes into it for the purpose of “taking theatre” or education through theatre to the people. Indeed, his stock of writing leaves us with great points of reference for Uganda’s history and culture. Many of Ruganda’s writings/plays are of international standards, an indicative of the extent Uganda theatre has grown and of its potential,” Ntangaare observes. “I have not come across playwrights whom you would say are emulating Ruganda’s writing style. His books are outstanding and are still on the school syllabus in Uganda, “The Burdens” and “Black Mamba” for ‘O’ Level and “The Floods” for ‘A’ Level,” Dan Kisense, a lecturer at the Makerere University department of performing arts and film, says. As to Ruganda’s contribution as a playwright producing powerful plays in the difficult times in the history of Uganda, Ntangaare observes: “One could say he was simply the conscience of his own people, for instance, the Ugandans. He had a nationalist approach to issues in his plays – not forgetting his cultural origins/background but not being fanatic about it. The themes in his plays are easily universal. The experiences of his characters are easily appreciated because they touch the nerve of life.” As to Ruganda’s outstanding literary work, Ntangaare says, “I find The Burdens truly intriguing and very communicative across genders, age and at different levels as well. It’s eternally relevant as it deals with tragedy (tragedies) that is (are) human and common to all. All of us have at one time or another found ourselves in situations of Wamala, Tinka, Kaija or Nyakake. In the play, Ruganda also explores the family as the one single unit in society where one finds meaning and challenge all at once. Even when we have succeeded or failed elsewhere we always come back to our families where we may, ironically, meet our end!” As to how we should remember Ruganda, Ntangaare, the former head of the Makerere University music, dance and drama department notes “Remember him as a great playwright, dramatist, and philosopher. He was a nationalist i.e. with a heart for Uganda and Ugandans as a whole. He is an inspiration to many young writers and playwrights.” “Igereka and Other African Narratives,” is a unique rendition of the short story, combining the classical and the African way of story-telling. In this work, Ruganda fuses drama, narrative and poetry to present a tale of despotic futility in overcoming divine will. Using three epic stories – ‘Igereka,’ ‘The Invincible Hunter’ and ‘That Business about the Lambs’ – he takes the reader on a journey through a world that mirrors the realities of life. Contributing the Afterward, Teresa Chisanga sumarises the book as a collection of three short stories dealing with a unique blend of human relations among men and women, masters and servants and covers a range of emotions from love to hatred to greed and selfishness. “Although some of the aspects covered border on beliefs and the supernatural, the underlying message in all the stories is human and close enough to reality…,” she writes. ‘Igereka,’ the first story is about a powerful king, Isaza and the intricate issue of inheritance in the African society. He had only one daughter called Nyanunga – the beautiful and graceful one. He blinded her with many beautiful things. Once in a while he wished he had a son for his heir. According to Chisanga, the second story, “The Invincible Hunter,” is about Kahigi, the most powerful hunter in the neighbourhood. A megalomanic who is not satisfied with having subdued everyone around him, he had to go out to look for more to conquer and more power. It is about greed, male chauvinism and the ultimate in self-centredness. It is also a story about how the impossible can happen if you push these tendencies too far.” “..It is also a powerful story about a man who has an illusion, as many do, that they are not just powerful because of what they have achieved, but that they are in control of everything around them as their destiny. Kahigi’s fall is thunderous, more so that it comes at the hands of a helpless victim of his, a child slaughtered and apparently a helpless mother! He is brought down to the level of these individuals, by them. He is disgraced. It is a great story and the author should be commended for this different twist ending in “heroinism” rather than “heroism,” Chisanga argues. The last story, Akomunyana – or That Business About The Lambs – is perhaps the most intricate of the three stories. It begins with a curse spanning two generations, goes through the details of how the original chief Rutegaya lived and brought the curse upon his family and how his son Bahemuka had to carry the curse through to what should have been the third generation. “It is a story about the other extreme of how being too good and obliging can also prove to be costly unless you can discriminate between people, events and everything, and know when and why not to oblige,” Chisanga writes. Writing in the Postface of this anthology, Ruganda notes that: “If there is a unifying motif around which “Igereka and Other African Narratives” has been rehashed, it is the motif of women striving to define and articulate their role in an ever-changing environment that constantly denies them voice and presence.” “The successful attempts by the female characters in this anthology to define themselves by invading what was traditionally male space and be prerogative, should not taken for granted, nor should it surprise anyone at all…,” Ruganda argues. According to Ruganda, this anthology explores other concerns as well; concerns such as the arbitrary intrusion of fate in man’s life, as in Akomunyana; the ever enticing temptation to misuse power especially against one’s adversaries and the resultant tragic consequences that pursue the wielder and the victim of power alike, as in the invincible hunter, among others. Ruganda refashioned and transliterated these narratives from his mother’s oral performance. The folk-tales are from Toro kingdom in western Uganda. “It was also my wish to bring my “mother’s tales” as close as possible to our time without necessarily compromising their form and texture wherever possible. In short, at least in intention, I wanted the past of these tales to talk to our time with an immediate directness that excludes interpreters,” he adds. “…I took great liberties with these tales in the process of recreating and rehashing them. My major defence, if one is needed for this kind of creative liberty, is that there is no copyright on oral tales. Since through constant use, these tales have come to belong to everybody, there is no one who can boast of having an authentic version of them or, as some people would say, anyone who would boast of owning the mother version of all the narratives. Each performance of a tale generates its own dialectics and therefore has its own valid authenticity as any other before it and, indeed, after it,” he writes. “…I have not hesitated to embellish my creations with inter-textual referencing from other African traditions. Hence the justification and validity of the subtitle of this anthology. I have also had to fuse tales-within-tales to make the message clearer, or to broaden the scope of their vision,” he adds. Ruganda was one of the founding members of the Makerere Free Travelling Theatre and was elected its chief organizer in 1966. Ruganda was born on May 30, 1941 in Fort Portal. He attended Saint Leo’s College in Fort Portal before joining Makerere University, where he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in English in 1967. He joined the Oxford University Press of Eastern Africa, where he worked as editorial and sales representative in Uganda between 1968 and 1972. In 1973, Ruganda fled the political turbulence of the day settling in Kenya, where he eventually joined the Literature Department of the University of Nairobi after working briefly for the Oxford University Press. He worked in the Literature department until 1982. He worked with the University of Nairobi's Free Travelling Theatre Company and the Nairobi University Players. In 1983, Ruganda left Kenya for Canada, where he enrolled for a Master of Arts programme at the University of New Brunswick, majoring in English. In 1989, he obtained his doctorate from the same university. He left Canada for South Africa, where lectured at the University of North in South Africa until 2008. Ends.

Friday, March 30, 2012


THE Afriart Gallery in Kamwokya, Kampala has just hosted a great line up of some of the best contemporary women artists working in Uganda in celebration of the Women Month of March.

The exhibition that ran from March 2 – 20, 2012, showcased the great advancements in art by top female artists displaying paintings, collages and photography. The display also included unique handmade earrings by Ugandan jewelers and other handcrafts.

The list of the exhibition titled, “Women artists in Uganda” includes: Stella Atal, Rosario Achola, Hellen Nabukenya, Maria Naita, Amanda Tumusiime, Sheila Nakitende, Meltem Yasar and Roshan Karmali.

Achola’s oil and mixed media display includes “The Lost Art of Romance,” “Bujagali” and “Fool’s Gold.” A picture of her painting “Bujagali” by Morgan Mbabazi appears above.

“Bujagali” explains the male element of economic development versus the female element of nature. With the building of the dam, a sacred place is going to be lost in the process. In the middle of the painting is the sacred area that is holding a secret of something more precious than gold.

“Fool’s Gold” is about the expectations of marriage. On the right is a man expressing his love and sexuality, he is the shining light, for his expectations are insemination reproduced by the fish and frogspawn below him. On the left is the bride and her expectations are fertility and a secure home. But these expectations break her neck.

Karmali, a photographer, designer and poet displayed her photographic collection tilted “Contemporary Tribe Series,” that included “Rachael,” “Jessica” and “Simone,” and?? Her series ask who is a tribe. What makes up a tribe? What is tribe?

“As long as we can remember tribes are made up of people who share the same traditions, cultures and a sense of unity, and look out and take care of each other. In the contemporary context as our cultures and ethnicities become diluted how does our generation connect to our indigenous heritage. So, we make a new (contemporary) tribe that takes strides or elements from our tradition and hold on to them in our contemporary lives,” Karmali observes.

“These series are about finding those people who function in life and keep alive their ancestry and cultural rituals despite being in the place that is changing. We tend to dilute our cultures with consumerism and the need to fit in and be the same. If we don’t celebrate our ancestry and tradition we are going to be creating generations of children who don’t connect, celebrate, indulge in the beauty and richness of our cultures. And this is not only happening in Africa but the other cultures in the world as well,” Karmali argues.

There was no better photo that summarized Karmali’s series than “Simone” - a portrait of a young woman of Burmese and American mixed race who has smeared herself with sandalwood paste as protection from the sun – a practice still in use in Burma. She lives in Washington DC, USA and this is a way of staying connected to her Burmese heritage.

Atal, a specialist in acrylics on barkcloth is also a fashion designer of wearable art. On display were her works like “My Sunshine,” “Beauty Contest” and “Rhythms of the Day” – carrying three fresh faces with beads, inspired to do something for the day.

Nakitende’s paintings included “Me Time,” “Strength of a Woman,” “First Love” and “My little friend.” While Tumusiime’s works are “Long Stride,” “Adolescent” and “Empowered.”

Nabukenya had “Blue land,” “Abstract,” “New Life,” “Love in Paradise” and “Advance.”

Naita’s works were “My Bouquet,” “Follow Your Dreams” and “My Best Friend,” among others.

Meltem’s marvelous photography made up of coloured and black and white portraits. Yasar, who seems to have fallen in love with nomadic peoples of western and eastern Africa has pictures of these people dressed in their traditional head gears, beads, burgles and hair styles. Most were captured in their homesteads in happy moods smiling with white beautiful teeth.

Meltem‘s collection include “Big smile from Omo Valley,” “Bottle cap girl,” “Lost in his eyes,” “Himba girl,” “Black-est eyes, beautiful smile,” “Scar tattooed Karamajong girl,” “Big Karamojong smile” and “Beauty in the crowd,” among others.

Achola, a surrealist painter and photographer described the exhibition as a way of expressing the different layers of what makes a woman, adding: “And it is also a way to examine the power dynamics in the different gender roles assigned to us by society.”

On her part Atal said: “I think it is a way of reaching out to other women showing them our talent by expressing our inner feelings through paintings and other forms of art.”

“We also want to prove to those who studied fine art and are not practicing thinking that it is a dirty job. Some people think painting is meant for men and not women, and that is why we are few women in this trade. So we want to challenge the men that we can do or even be better than them,” Atal added.

According to the curator of the Afriart Gallery, Daudi Karungi the exhibition showcased women’s creativity in Uganda with the purpose of displaying their works.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Alchemist - A Testimony of Pursuing One’s Dreams


THE Alchemist is a story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who dreams of travelling the world in search of a treasure as extravagant as any ever found.

In the classic novel by the Brazilian author and one of the world’s most popular spiritual writers, Paulo Coelho, the boy journeys from his home in Spain to the exotic markets of Tangiers and then into the Egyptian desert, where a fateful encounter with the alchemist awaits him.

The story begins with Santiago arriving with his herd at an abandoned church at dusk to spend a night. The roof has fallen in long ago, and an enormous sycamore had grown on the spot where the sacristy had once stood. He always carried a book and a heavy jacket that withstood the cold of the dawn.

It was still dark when he awoke amid a dream. He had had the same dream that night as a week ago, and once again he had awakened before it ended.

Santiago dreamt that he was in a field with his sheep, when a child appeared and began to play with the animals. He did not like people to do that, because the sheep are afraid of strangers. But children always seem to be able to play with them without frightening them. He did not know why. He did not know how animals know the age of human beings.

Suddenly, the child took both his hands and transported him to the Egyptian pyramids. The child said to him, “If you come here, you will find a hidden treasure.” And, just as she was about to show him the exact location, he woke up on both times.

He consulted an old woman who interpreted dreams; she encouraged him to go to Egypt after he promised to share his new riches with her.

Santiago then met the king of Salem. The treasure was in Egypt, near the pyramids, the old man informed the shepherd after he had handed over six sheep to the king.

He attended a seminary until he was sixteen. His parents had wanted him to become a priest, and thereby a source of pride for a simple farm family. The worked hard just to have food and water, like the sheep.

He had studied Latin, Spanish, and theology. But ever since he had been a child, he had wanted to know the world, and this was much more important to him than knowing God and learning about men’s sins. One afternoon, on a visit to his family, he had summoned up the courage to tell his father that he did not want to become a priest. That he wanted to travel after two years of walking the Andulusain terrain. He sold his herd of sheep and left for Africa.

All Santiago’s money was stolen when he got to Africa by a young man who pretended to assist him get to Egypt. He got employed by a crystal glassware merchant and the boy’s creative marketing ideas turned the glass business into a profitable venture. After eleven months and nine days in Africa, Santiago had saved enough money to buy himself a hundred and twenty sheep, a return ticket, and a license to import products from Africa into his own country. He had also learnt Arabic.

“When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it,” the old king had said. But he had not said anything about out being robbed, or about endless deserts, or about people who know what their dreams are but do not want to realize them.

One day after arriving at the Oasis of Al-Fayoum in Egypt, Santiago watched a pair of hawks flying high in the sky. Although their flight appeared to have no pattern, it made a certain kind of sense to him. It was just that he could not grasp what it meant, but he sensed that it was actually going to occur.

On the advice of the camel driver he met the tribal chiefs and relayed the omen of an impending invasion by the neighbouring tribe.

“The oasis is neutral ground. No one attacks an oasis,” one of the chiefs said. The chiefs agreed to break the agreement that forbid one from carrying arms on condition that if there was no invasion one of the arms would be used on the boy.

The boy was then confronted by a man on a white horse dressed in black, with a falcon perched on his left shoulder. “If the warriors come here, and you head is still on your shoulders at sunset, come and find me,” the horseman said. The boy had in fact met the alchemist.

The enemy attacked - and all but one of the intruders (the commander) were killed. The tribal chieftain called the boy, and presented him with fifty pieces of gold, and asked him to become the counselor of the oasis.

Later Santiago asked the alchemist: “Why did you want to see me?

“Because of the omens,” the alchemist answered. “The wind told me you would be coming, and that you would need help…”

“When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream,” said the alchemist, echoing the words of the old king.

“…You already know all you need to know. I am only going to point you in the direction of your treasure,” the alchemist said.

The boy replies that he has already found his treasures; a camel, money from the crystal shop, and fifty gold pieces. Besides that he had Fatima – a girl he had fallen in love with in Al-Fayoum.

“But none of that is from the pyramids,” said the alchemist.

On his way to the pyramids with the alchemist they were arrested after being mistaken for spies, and Santiago lost his gold coins to a chief. They were freed after the boy turned himself into wind.

When they got to a Coptic monastery the alchemist replaced the boy’s gold he had handed over to the general by turning lead into gold. Santiago parted ways with the alchemist before getting to the pyramids – the alchemist returned to the desert.

When he finally got to the pyramids, he began to dig for treasure. Throughout the night, the boy dug at the place he had chosen, but found no treasure.

He is attacked by a group of men, who beat him up and took his gold.

“What good is money to you if you’re going to die? It’s not often that money can save someone’s life,” the alchemist had said.

The boy eventually returned to the abandoned church. The sycamore was still there in the sacristy, and the stars could still be seen through the half-destroyed roof. This time he was not with his flock, but with a shovel.

He began to dig at the base of the sycamore. Half an hour later, this shovel hit something solid. An hour later, he had before him a chest of Spanish gold coins. There were also precious stones, gold masks adorned with red and white feathers, and stone statues embedded with jewels.

The Alchemist is an unforgettable novel about the essential wisdom of listening to our heart and, above all, following our dreams.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012



IN HER latest anthology Ugandan poet, Mildred Kiconco Barya tackles issues such as the relevance of our cultural heritage in modern times, time and space, wars, poverty, love, pain, betrayal, shattered dreams, sex and death.

Titled “Give Me Room to Move My Feet,” and published by Amalion Publishing the collection has 100 poems that fall among seven parts: revolving lives, stormy heart, before the sun sinks, the pain of tenderness, shame has a place, the shape of dreams and until the last breath is drawn.

The theme of domestic violence is captured in the poem “The Perfect Match.” The wife threatens to divorce because he picks up the laundry, empties the bin and attends family planning sessions. The husband brings her the job pages so she may try her luck, but she prefers staying home watching television. He points fingers and picks up an axe, children take cover under the beds and she flees to the cattle shed.

The clash between modern and native diets is played out in the poem “What’s Native Can’t Harm You.” A ‘polished’ woman visits her mother upcountry with packed tinned foods and waffles plus alternative capsules for victims for her children. The grandmother won’t understand why her grandchildren cannot take the ripe mangoes, oranges and the tangerines that are in plenty. “They’ll catch a fever if they eat this and that,” she is told. The grandchildren eventually eat their packed junk food – and they ended up stunted like fishermen’s hooks.

The poem “The Place Where you begin (The Third World),” highlights the challenges of the least developed world. It is a disorganized place plagued with basic lacks and wants, regular electricity, flowing water and hygiene.

In the poem “Skipping” she writes that people believe that their creator blesses other generations and skips theirs. “…Our parents were the blessed lot. They loved whole, married well. We are the skipped. Our loves gone sour, nations betrayed at our hands, justice ripped from her seat…”

Barya observes that we fear to touch pain and are afraid how it exposes us, and if only we knew we own it. “You can always see the look of pain whichever spot you stand, in the empty eyes of children huddled on the streets, in the familiar heartache songs you hear, in the frenzied beats of the drums, in the wound that pound with a rhythmic echo, universal pain,” the poem “The Look of Pain,” goes in part.

The dreadful Monday mornings are depicted in the poem “Monday Mornings.” They come with a lot of indigestion, constipation, exhaustion, hang-ups and hangovers. We do not hesitate to rejoice when it turns out to be a public holiday – then we extend the weekend.

Love, pain, jealousy and anger are medical conditions to be assuaged with homeotherapy and grandma remedies, the poem “Medical Conditions” suggests.

In the poem “Miracle Inside,” she sits in the chapel trying to make sense of the white-washed walls, why the heart cannot be that clean, and why the spirit must keep seeking.

She compares the natural beauty of the Sipi Falls in Kapchorwa in Eastern Uganda to the Mississippi in the USA in the poem “Sipi.” “What have you in common with the ancient Mississippi/That your name should be hewn out of that river? /Perhaps it’s the beauty you share, immense/Long with endurance, swollen with stories/Formidable. Imposing.

To drink from your wellness/A traveler can never forget/Cool, refreshing you are/ You’re here forever…”

“I wish depression had a cure,” goes the shortest poem “A Wish.”

In “Dream Carriers,” she asks how it feels to watch your dreams slip from your reach. Is it like losing ground in a job interview breaking you in cold sweat?

Barya decries the senseless wars in Africa in the poem “Revolutionaries.” The bosses got fat on the gold and slept under mosquito nets in the best hotels, while the foot soldiers shared the bush with snakes and spiders. One by one of their colleagues died – and all the government did was to deny the deaths. The soldiers eventually saw how cheap they were.

According to Peter Nazareth, professor of English and advisor, International Writing Programme, University of Iowa, USA, “In 100 thought-provoking textually original poems, Mildred Kiconco Barya explores elements of time and space on the landscapes of memory, observation and experience at individual points and collective levels…”

“In dialectical ‘opposing’ lines and dialogue, Barya delves into the contradictions about love, loss, and betrayal – by the selfish who took advantage of idealists and by the lover who after goading us on preferred to be somewhere else. In deeply personal explorations, the poet breaks down and mends herself through spirituality, religion, and poetry, bringing back to life what seemed to be dead,” Nazareth adds.

Barya’s first book of poetry, “Men Love Chocolates But They Don’t Say (2002) won the National Poetry Award in Uganda. Her second collection, “The Price of Memory After the Tsunami” was published in 2006. Her short stories include “Scars of Earth,” “Effigy Child,” “Those Days of Ebola,” and “Land of My Bones.”

Barya was born in Uganda and studied at Makerere University, Uganda; Moi University, Kenya and the International Women’s University, Germany.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012


HAS your flight ever been delayed at one of the airports in Africa and no explanation or apology was offered - or have you ever walked into a shop and the attendant continued with her manicure that you found her attending to.

Well these and other forms of real-life experiences contributing to poor service delivery and customer care make up a new book by Ugandan author, Dorothy M. Tuma titled, “Keeping Customers - And Getting Their Friends Too!” published by DMT Consultants Limited.

The book is based on a compilation of Tuma’s weekly articles on customer services, published by the Daily Monitor newspaper as “Dora’s Diary” every Tuesday. The articles, which allowed Tuma to reconnect with her marketing roots and the principle that customers reign supreme; were born out of her frustration with Uganda not having a place for consumers to compliment excellent service or complain about the opposite.

Most of the times Tuma has used Entebbe Airport’s frequent flyer lounge, she has noticed that beyond the initial warm greeting everyone receives from the gentleman at the door, there emerge two distinct categories of service: service reserved for people who are either known to be or look like VIPs and service (or lack of it) for the rest.

“From my observations, as soon as a celebrity, highly visible public figure or distinguished looking foreigner sits down, a smiling waiter or waitress bearing a heated, damp wash cloth for the VIP materializes, takes the VIP’s order and delivers refreshments to the seated VIP. The other level of service reserved for non-VIPs like me, includes the individual something down for several minutes and finally realizing that if they are to have refreshments, they will need to walk to the counter, place their order, wait while it is assembled and then walk back to their seat with the ordered items,” she writes.

“I find it odd that there are clearly two levels of distinctly different service in a lounge that should treat all guests equally. The attentive service enjoyed by one group of customers should be available to every customer eligible to use that lounge. Unfortunately for travelers, there is only one frequent flyer lounge at this particular East African airport so a frequent flyer can either choose to do without lounge services or settle for the discriminately services offered,” she adds.

Tuma asks: “Does your business offer two levels of service – one for those who appear not to have much money and another for those who appear to be financially endowed? Potential customers who receive cold treatment have absolutely no incentive to spend their money with you. If they have a choice, they will simply go elsewhere in search of a place where they feel welcome and appreciated.”

In addition to the articles, which are all real-life case studies, the book provides the theory behind key customer service principles and a number of practical tools in a style that everyone from the most junior employee to the CEO will both appreciate and find useful. It is an indispensable handbook and reference tool for anyone who interfaces with customers. The illustrations are by Stanislaus Olonde “Stano.”

Divided into 15 chapters the book, a critic of general business practices and conduct tackles the subjects of courtesy, honesty, communication, valuing customer feedback, compensation of errors by businesses, equipping and rewarding staff and appreciation of customer loyalty, among others.

The articles meticulously retold are born out of the author’s personal experiences and those of the her family and friends with several service providers ranging from utility companies, airlines, hair salons, tailors, car mechanics, supermarkets, hotels, restaurants and taxis, among others. Some names have been changed to protect the individual’s privacy and company names have been omitted in the majority of the case studies.

Are customers driven to extremes just to gain access to your services? Well, Tuma’s friend Susan had to throw a tantrum to get her internet wireless connection activated by a local mobile phone company. “Should that be what it takes? Why should a company drive a customer into making a scene before she can access the services she has already paid for? ...” she asks.

According to Tuma, if you are running a legitimate business, without customers you will soon either have to close your doors for good or sell your business to someone who believes they will be better at attracting and retaining customers. It follows therefore, that every existing business remains operational because it has customers who believe the business in question provides a product or service that fulfils one or more of their wants, needs or both. That puts customers in an incredibly strong position.

Tuma adds that in the countries where businesses face strong competition, customers reign supreme, businesses do everything they can to attract and retain customers. Sophisticated business enterprises spend the equivalent of millions of dollars every year on attempting to establish relationships with customers and getting to understand their preferences in order to tailor products and services to exceed customer expectations.

“In our part of the world however, it would appear that the power in the provident/customer relationship still lies primarily in the hands of the provider. In other words, instead of courting customers and making them feel special at every turn, most providers make their customers feel like they are doing them a favour they do not deserve,” she observes.

Common courtesy is not that common after all, or so the saying goes. This is quite surprising since courtesy and decorum are traditional values across Africa. For some reason however, the values our parents took great pains to impart to us disappeared somewhere along the way, she laments.

According to Tuma, “It is common for service providers to treat paying customers as though they are being given a free and underserved service, at the service provider’s expense. Grumpy faces, rude retorts, corner cutting and incredibly slow service are commonplace and well accepted. Beyond a smiling welcome, discerning customers expect to be treated with courtesy.”

“Why then do customers who have options choose to continue supporting businesses that treat them as though they are doing them a favour? Thankfully, regionalization, globalization and increasing competition will eventually put a stop to this. Is your business ready for the shift of power from service providers to customers?”

Tuma emphasizes that every employee must be trained on how to handle customers courteously. Rude employees will ruin your company’s reputation, costing you both customers and the revenue they bring. Beyond training, employees must subsequently be monitored, rewarded for meeting the required standards and pointed in the right direction when they fall short.

She also notes that false promises, painfully slow service and the absence of any kind of apology thereafter, only lower customer opinions of your establishment. A simple verbal recognition of the inconvenience can transform a negative experience into a positive one.

Tuma argues that customers do not know and in most cases actually do not want to know what you have to do in order to render them the services they pay you for.

“All we want is the finished product or service we are looking for. Service providers are responsible for seeing to it that the delivery process is seamless and without hitch. Create system checks to ensure that your systems are working to deliver the quality your customers expect and always have a back-up plan in case your system fails, for whatever reason. Internal break-downs should be invisible to your customers.”

A director with DMT Consultants Limited, Tuma is a business development and international trade consultant. She is a founder of the Women’s Centre for Job Creation (an organization that turns around rural women’s income generating projects) and vice chairperson of Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Limited (UWEAL). Prior to her development work, she was a brand manager with Avery Dennison Corporation, USA for ten years.


Friday, January 27, 2012


FILMMAKERS in the region that converged in Kampala for the 8th Annual Congress on East African Cinema explored the possibility of exploiting the Internet, film training initiatives, alternative means of fundraising and distribution including the networks of the film pirates as some of the means to propel the industry forward.

The congress held during the Amakula Kampala Cinema Caravan Festival from December 14 – 17, 2011, focused on how to leverage the East African Common Market for cinema.

This is against the background that with a 130 million strong population East Africa not only offers a potential market for film consumption but also reveals the multitude of stories that can be told cinematically across the varied cultural tapestry of the five member nations; Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

Summarizing the current state of the industry, Prof. Martin R. Mhando, a Tanzanian filmmaker said: “Cinema is dead in Africa because no one goes to the theatre anymore. Maybe a few members of the elite class watch films in theatres, but the cinema market does not make much money like it did in the 1960s – 80s. We can’t sell in Africa and yet our market is here at home.”

“We need to identify our target audience. We may not get them in the cinema hall, but we should make the products that they actually want and these could be DVDs, television, makeshift video halls or via YouTube,” the chief executive officer and festival director of the Kenya International Film Festival, Charles Asiba, noted.

Asiba, who is also the director of the Kenya Film Commission, contends that: “Cinema should be the high end product of a filmmaker. If you can have a theatrical release that should be the ultimate – but it is only a selected few who turn up. The Nigerians have been producing home videos for the last 15 years it is only now that they are turning to theatrical productions because they have created audiences for their films.”

“We have witnessed a revival of pop music in East Africa by the new generation with the Bongo flavor rhythm, among others. And now the middle class is listening and appreciating local music in place of the once dominate Congolese music. The film industry should borrow a leaf from the music sector and target the video market and not the cinema market. We could also copy the Bibanda (video halls) in Uganda and develop our film structure around that kind of distribution pattern,” Mhando, a film professor at Murdoch University in Australia, said.

“We have observed that more people are watching DVDs in the comforts of their homes. So for us to claim to be doing film business we have to take our films to homes or even the makeshift video halls, as longer as we can generate income. We can’t claim to have a film industry if we are not making money,” Asiba added.

“My encouragement to the young filmmakers is that they should look at cinema as a business and not an art. As much as it is a creative industry let’s look at the business end of our productions. Why are we making these films? And can we live on them? And can they sustain our livelihoods?” Asiba argues.

According to the sales and marketing manager, Fast Track Productions Limited, Richard Geria, the emerging market for African film is online. “The online market is presenting an alternative channel for the distribution of film content. The regulation for this new outlet maybe nonexistent but it offers film producers an opportunity to make money.”

Fast Track Productions Limited has developed a platform called that is still on a test run will provide its customers with a variety of African content. It is a Voice on Demand (VoD) service where members will sign up to download television episodes and films. Payments will be by debit card, credit card or mobile money.

“We have noticed there is a huge demand for African films. We have uploaded all the 90 episodes of the first season of our television series ‘The Hostel’ on our platform and we have been overwhelmed by the demand for DVDs of the series. Our targets are the Ugandans in the Diaspora and the high enders in Uganda that can afford the latest gargets,” Geria revealed.

According to Geria the film producers will be entitled to 25 per cent of the revenue generated after sales. “We shall share the numbers with the producers as partners. In order to protect copyright infringement we have invested in a security system in which our customers will only be able to stream and not down load content,” he said.

According to the business development associate, Google Uganda, Elijah Kitaka, the launch of the Ugandan YouTube channel recently gives Ugandan filmmakers an opportunity to broadcast themselves to the world on world on the world’s largest online video community on a service that receives 3 billion hits a day.

Mhando highlights a completely different approach to the issue of piracy without necessarily condoning it, in his paper titled, “Leveraging Film for the East African Common Market: The Swahili Film Market.”

“The reason for that is to acknowledge the role that culture plays in diverse ways, which Swahili and other local language films could embrace in its journey towards profits and efficiency…,” he argues in the paper presented at the congress.

“While we have no figures to quantify the extent to which the Swahili film business functions and aids the economy of Tanzania, we can indeed see the number of people involved in the production and distribution of videos therefore acknowledging the job creation capacity of the industry. The distribution network that assists Steps to reach millions of customers is genuine job creation enterprise. The hundreds of machinga (street vendors) that survive on this business attest to the importance of the culture to their lives and therefore the country,” Mhando argues.

Mhando believes that piracy is not necessarily a negative aspect. “It can help us to improve the way we communicate. It provides employment and cuts down the crime rate. We can take advantage of the pirate’s distribution networks to make our sector profitable. Let’s think outside the box to leverage film for the East African Common Market,” he argues.

At the Swahili film level in the last decade, the means by which independent films, documentaries, and screenplays are financed, advertised, marketed and sold has undergone tremendous change. With more than 100 Swahili films being produced annually competing for distribution “deals,” independent filmmakers’ opportunities to have their scripts produced or films released into the marketplace have become increasingly difficult, Mhando observes.

Kenya continues to churn out many films in English and Swahili recognizing both the language factor in the marketing of films as well as its cultural efficacy and beneficence, Mhando adds in the paper that projects commercial and cultural conditions necessary for a viable and utilitarian film industry in the region.

However if we are to look at the market in general we find a much enlarged distribution circuit in the region. Steps Entertainment of Dar-es- Salaam has captured and controls the market of Swahili (Bongo) films around the region and have now opened offices in Rwanda, DR Congo and are looking at opening offices in Kenya and Burundi, Mhando adds.

“Indeed it is a well-known fact that the distribution of Swahili films in Tanzania and the region in general has eclipsed that of Nigerian films,” Mhando writes.

Steps Entertainment began its operations in 2005 with the mission of reaching the people through small outlets and agents spread countrywide offering affordable entertainment and education through films. They produce 6,000 DVD copies of a film and sell 4,000 copies on the day of release. The average cost of production is $10,000.

According to Mhando, “Notwithstanding the piracy factor, the company has indeed expanded to producing films cheaply in order to allow themselves a wide profit margin to undercut the film pirate. It has now achieved a modicum of respect despite it also being seen to undermine the growth of local filmmakers through their crass management system. It is well-known fact that producers for Steps are forced to pay miniscule rates to artist (except the stars) to just break even while affording Steps the margins necessary for profit making. With its vast distribution network in and outside Tanzania, it purchases movies and distributes them across the region.”

“What Steps has revealed however is that there is need for a link between producers and distributors. Steps works in both and in that way undercut the producer. If there was a link, an “advertising and marketing” link who would handle multiple projects,” Mhando observes.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The novel, “Cry, the Beloved Country" embedded in murder, prostitution and racial hatred

THE classic fictional novel “Cry, the Beloved Country” is about Rev. Stephen Kumalo seeking his delinquent and only child, Absalom in the city of Johannesburg - his search takes him through a labyrinth of land, murder, prostitution, racial hatred and, ultimately, reconciliation.

The story begins with Rev. Kumalo preparing to leave his rural area of Ndotsheni for Johannesburg after receiving an urgent letter from Rev. Theophilus Msimangu asking him to rush to the big city to rescue his ‘sick sister,’ Gertrude Kumalo.

Gertrude went to Johannesburg to look for her husband who was recruited for the mines. But when his time was up, he did not return, nor did he write at all. She did not know if he were dead perhaps. So she took her small child and went to look for him.

When she fails to find her husband she turns to selling liquor and sleeping with any man for their price. They gamble and drink and stab. A man is killed at her place in Claremont. She has been in prison more than once.

Absalom had left Ndotsheni in pursuit of his auntie, Gertrude, but never returned, nor after a while did he write to his parents any more.

“Cry, the Beloved Country” by Alan Paton that was first published in 1948, is a remarkable story for its contemporaneity; unforgettable for character and incident, the fictional novel is a classic work of love and hope, courage and endurance, born of the dignity of man.

In search of Absalom and Mathew Kumalo (the son of John Kumalo), Kumalo and Msimangu learn that the boys were buglers and robbers.

The parsons went to Shanty Town at the home of the Hlatshwayo’s. “He stayed with me, umfundisi. We took pity on him because he had no place to go. But I am sorry to tell you tell you that they took him away, and I heard that the Magistrate had sent him to the reformatory,” Mrs. Hlatshwayo informed them.

The head of the reformatory informed them that Absalom, who had left a month ago, was a good boy and had a promising future. Absalom was partly released because of his age, but mainly because there was a girl who was pregnant by him. He promised to work for his child and its mother.

Absalom together with Mathew and Johannes Pafuri are detained for the murder of a Whiteman, Arthur Trevelyan Jarvis and seriously injuring his male servant. It is Absalom who is found guilty of the murder and sentenced to death. His two accomplices are set free.

Arthur was well known for his interest in social problems, and for his efforts for the welfare of the non-European sections of the community. Condolence messages came in from Africans, coloured people, Indians and Jews. Arthur had learnt Afrikaans and Zulu, and he was talking of learning Sesuto.

He was the only son of Mr. James Jarvis of High Place, Carisbrooke. Jarvis owned a farm in the hills of Ndotsheni. Father and son did not see eye to eye on the native question. It was after reading some of his son’s essays on social justice that Jarvis changed his racist attitude towards non-whites.

In one such easy Arthur contended that: “…It is not permissible to add to one’s possessions if these things can only be done at the cost of other men. Such development has only one true name, and that is exploitation. It might have been permissible in the early days of our country, before we became aware of its costs, in the disintegration of native community life, in the deterioration of native family life, in poverty, slums, and crime. But now that the cost is known, it is no longer permissible.”

The church service was attended by people of all races – it was the first time that Jarvis and his wife, Margaret had sat in a church with people who were not white. Later he also shook hand with black people for the first time.

Kumalo, who was frail laments that his has been a sorrowful journey. “At first it was a search. I was anxious at first, but as the search went on, step by step, so did the anxiety turn to fear, and this fear grow deeper step by step. …When we heard of the murder, that my fear grew into something too great to be borne.”

In his comforting words, Father Vincent told Kumalo: “My friend, your anxiety turned to fear, and your fear turned to sorrow. But sorrow is better than fear. For fear impoverishes always, while sorrow may enrich.”

With his sister turned prostitute, his brother (John Kumalo) turned labour protestor and Absalom, arrested for the murder, Kumalo must grapple with how to bring his family back from the brink of destruction as the racial tension throughout Johannesburg hampers his attempts to protect his family.

A night before Kumalo returned home, Gertrude disappeared leaving behind her little boy. So he only went back with his daughter-in-law and nephew.

When Jarvis returned to Ndotsheni he hired an agricultural demonstrator to introduce better farming methods all in memory of Arthur. His farm also started supplying milk to pre-school children, some of whom were dying as a result of the long drought. The milk supply was to continue until the grass came and the area got mill again. A new church to replace the dirty old wood-and-iron, patched and forlorn one was to be built in memory of Margaret.

The film “Cry, the Beloved Country” directed by Darrel Roodt was released in 1995 in the USA. With James Earl Jones as Rev. Kumalo, Tsholofelo Wechoemang (child), Vusi Kunene (Theophilus Msimangu), Richard Harris (James Jarvis) and Charles S. Dutton (John Kumalo), among others.


Friday, January 13, 2012


GROUNDBREAKING research into perceptions of public libraries in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Uganda shows libraries in Africa are “essential,” yet underutilized resources for technology and community development services.

Most people in the six African countries see libraries primarily for educational purposes but recognize potential for much more. They also believe that public libraries have the potential to contribute to community development in important areas such as health, employment, agriculture and closing the digital divide.

Public libraries are widely available in most of the six countries studied offering the traditional service of lending of books and offering a good environment for studying, for instance, where school pupils or even university students can complete homework and other classroom related reading, such as reading for examinations.

However, libraries are small and under-resourced, and most people associate them with traditional book lending and reference services rather than innovation and technology. In some cases they lack relevant books to meet the needs of users, the report titled “Perceptions of Public Libraries in Africa,” notes.

Users and non-users were surveyed in Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Awareness of libraries is high even among those not using them. Users share information about their library experiences a lot, mainly with their friends. In addition to the high awareness a majority have very positive sentiments about libraries across all groups surveyed, for instance, from policy level all the way to users, including non-users.

“Libraries are perceived as offering academic related information and therefore an extension of academic study. Children’s exposure to libraries is limited and a lot more could be done to improve usage,” the report released in Kampala on November 12, 2011, recommends.

“Librarians are competent in the traditional roles of a librarian but have limitations in the technology related services. Low skill levels on technology services result from lacking the facilities that would enable them improve competency. A significant number of librarians admit to lacking the necessary skills for advocacy to generate additional funding,” it adds.

Libraries are seen as essential to the individual as well as communities in general by all groups surveyed. Libraries need to engage with the community at a more tangible level that goes beyond passively providing books and information only, for example, facilitating community interaction with service providers of health, agriculture and culture. Stakeholders recognise a role for libraries in these fields. “Funding for libraries is low, and donors (local or international) are expected to play a greater role in funding libraries,” the report suggests.

“Print media are currently doing more in promoting the library agenda than other media. Digital media like the internet are not properly exploited and with the growth of mobile telephony and data services in Africa, this could be an avenue to explore,” it adds.

According to the report, electronic media is the best way to reach the policy level target audience for libraries. TV and radio are the most frequently used sources of information and also the most trusted ones.

The findings demonstrate that awareness of public libraries is high and a majority view libraries as very important to both communities and individuals. Library users and non-users, librarians, library officials and government decision makers alike view public libraries primarily for educational purposes (90 per cent across all groups), however a range of other information services are emerging in libraries, including Information and Communications Technology (ICT), that have the potential to help meet community development needs.

The study found a significant majority of all respondents (80 per cent) believe the biggest benefit that public libraries offer is the opportunity to learn and to develop new skills. A growing number of people view libraries as a source for national and local news and information on important topics including agriculture, health and employment. Public library users and government officials view libraries as “essential to them personally and to the greater community.”

In addition to raising awareness of the information services libraries provide, the research shows that there is a strong demand for more technology resources. Among library users, only 14 per cent report using computers or the Internet at public libraries. A lack of computers is one of the primary reasons library users (37 per cent) and the local authorities that operate libraries (53 per cent) report being dissatisfied with library services.

Non-users say they would be motivated to use libraries if more access to online content was available (29 per cent) or if there were more computers in general (24 per cent). A significant majority of librarians (72 per cent) would like to see more funding invested in technologies to meet community needs.

Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL) commissioned the research under its Public Library Innovation Programme (PLIP) to deepen understanding of the role of public libraries in Africa and of the vision, aspirations and expectations of the general public, librarians and national and local government. The study was conducted by the social and marketing research company, TNS RMS East Africa Limited., from Januarury 2011 to April 2011.

EIFL is an international not-for-profit organization dedicated to enabling access to knowledge through libraries in more than 45 developing and transition countries in Africa, Asia and Europe. PLIP supports public libraries to implement innovative community development services.

In Kenya, education, local and national news and information were at the top of the list of public library services librarians reported providing. However, high numbers of librarians also reported that libraries are providing information on a wide variety of important issues, including health (65 per cent), use of electronic government services (60 per cent), information on agriculture (59 per cent), financial and investment news (63 per cent), employment searches (54 per cent) and information on starting a business (37 per cent).

“Sustainability of library services and funding is needed and should be enhanced to make sure that libraries meet existing community needs today and into the future,” said Silas Kobia, Kenya National Library Service (KNLS) board chairman. “Community leaders, government decision makers and other library stakeholders are needed to provide the policy and financial support libraries need for sustainability.”

The research also shows that ICT is a library service area with significant growth potential. Unprompted, few users and non-users in Uganda, associate libraries with ICT. Among library users, only 20 per cent report using computers or the Internet at public libraries. A lack of computers is one of the top reasons library users (36 per cent) and the local authorities that operate libraries (69 per cent) report being dissatisfied with library services. A significant majority of librarians (94 per cent) would like to see more funding invested in technologies to meet community needs.

In Uganda, the study looked at four regions: Kampala, Mbale, Masaka and Lira. More than 75 per cent of library users report visiting the library on a weekly or daily basis. The librarian is an important part of their library experience, with a majority (69 per cent) seeking advice or consultation from librarians. Users and non-users alike view the library as a place for study and a social place to meet people.

Among non-users in Uganda, a majority (58 per cent) report being “too busy” as the primary reason they do not use the library. However, if more libraries were able to offer broader selection of books, computer stations and more online content, a portion of non-users would be motivated to use the library.

Librarians report educational, health information and national news as the top three services libraries provide in Uganda. However, significant numbers of librarians indicate that libraries are providing information on a wide variety of other important community development issues, including agriculture (70 per cent), information on financial and investment news (38 per cent) and use of electronic government services (14 per cent).

Uganda has 26 public libraries and 80 libraries owned by communities and individuals.

Soon there will be a new library service introduced that will focus on helping young people find employment. The National Library of Uganda (NLU), working with Lira and Masindi public libraries and the National Youth Council, will train young people to use computers and the Internet — increasing their employability.

The new service, Electronic Information for Youth Employment (EIYE), will take advantage of the popularity of mobile phones among youth and send regular text messages to over 1,000 young jobseekers about vacant positions, education and training opportunities, business support and loan facilities. NLU was recently awarded a grant of Ushs39 million ($15,000) from EIFL to pilot the new service through PLIP.

“This is an exciting time for public libraries in Uganda,” said Gertrude Kayaga Mulindwa, director of the National Library of Uganda. “The perception research reinforces what we are already experiencing: public libraries are playing an important role in community development, especially when it comes to agriculture, health, social cohesion, local economic development and youth. And it will take all of us — community leaders, government decision makers and other library stakeholders — to provide the policy and financial support libraries need for long-term sustainability.”

According to Monika Elbert, senior policy advisor at EIFL and lead on the research project: “Everyone agrees that public libraries are essential. But more awareness and support is needed for library services that go beyond providing books and places for study.”

“Access to knowledge is critical for development and public libraries are uniquely positioned to provide ICT-enabled information services that will contribute to countries’ medium and long-term development plans. Libraries are a hub where, for example, at-risk youth can access computers and learn new technology skills for the 21st century, unemployed people can learn job-seeking skills and farmers can find valuable information about new farming methods — all of which are key strands of community development. We want this research to spark dialogue and create more interest in libraries as community development partners,” Elbert added.