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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Uganda’s reading culture resting under the rocks


Do we have a reading culture? Have politicians conspired to keep us ignorant and poor by not availing helpful reading materials? Is Okot p’Bitek truly our only literary genius? And when is the Nobel Prize in Literature coming home?

Those were some of the questions during celebrations to mark the World Book and Copyright Day at the National Library of Uganda on April 23.

From Julius Ocwinyo to Glaydah Namukasa, Ugandan novelists, poets and short story writers shared impassioned views on the art of reading and writing in Uganda. Guests were also treated to a reading session made interesting because it was the first time many writers came together to read from their works.

They agreed that our reading culture is hampered by lack of public libraries in the country and insufficiency of books in many schools and homes.
Someone recalled a district official who strongly opposed the idea of constructing a library in Moroto District, arguing that it would be a waste of resources.

Organised by the National Book Trust of Uganda (Nabotu) and the Uganda Female Writers Association (Femrite) together with the National Library, the occasion was used to praise authors for sacrificing their time to think and write.
Lack of public libraries and books in homes and schools has contributed to the poor reading culture among the youth in Uganda. FILE PHOTO

“Books have the power to transform individuals and the country as well. Reading helps people refresh their thinking and ideas on what it means to be a citizen and how they can contribute to the country’s development,” Nabotu Executive Secretary, Charles Batambuze says.
Citing Doreen Baingana and Monica Arac de Nyeko among other Ugandan writers who have previously won international literary awards, Hilda Twongyeirwe from Femrite said the passion and ingenuity of Ugandan authors has reached a level where a Nobel Prize would not be surprising.

And Glaydah Namukasa, who had read from her novel, Voice of a Dream, the 2006 winner of the senior category of the Macmillan Writer’s Prize for Africa, said works by modern Ugandan authors are popular in the African sections of universities abroad.
Julius Ocwinyo says: “Obviously, Okot p’Bitek cannot be the only literary giant to emerge out of Uganda. It’s just that we have not done enough to market our writers and their works to far audiences.”

Ocwinyo should know better. After all he works for a publishing firm, and his novel, Fate of the Banished, is doing well in the academic circles for it’s among the very few local works on our A-level Literature syllabus.
The audience’s love for books was reflected in their worry over the apparent detachment between local and home literature.
Maybe literature from Uganda lacks that single element that boosts one’s energy to read to the last page.

Echoing the theme of the event: Books for Life, it was concluded that a love for reading and writing will be aroused through more and well equipped libraries and schools, having many Ugandan books on the national curriculum, translating the best of the available literature into local languages, reducing the price of books and training writers, illustrators and editors to improve the quality of books.

It’s up to us to surround ourselves with books and study them avidly, and maybe one day in retrospect, we shall realise it was one of the best moves.

--Saturday Monitor, May 2, 2009

Is holy hip hop the new religion that will transform youth culture?

They wear baggy outfits without showing their drawers and use slang but avoid the ‘F’ word and other profanities , writes Dennis D. Muhumuza

In a moving song, Glory 2 U Jesus, Renee, MC of The Levite Clan, mourns his “hommie” dying of HIV/Aids even after using condoms. Since the condom cannot be wholly trusted, he suggests C in the ABC strategy against HIV/Aid should represent Christ, who gives us the grace to remain faithful and to abstain.

He’s one example of many Ugandan Christian rap artists turning to holy hip hop to sing the truth about the world primarily to share the love of God and spread Jesus’ fame. The online encyclopaedia, Wikipaedia, defines holy hip hop, also known as Christian hip hop or gospel rap, as “a form of hip hop music which uses Christian themes to express the songwriter’s faith,” and is used for evangelisation.

It’s largely because of the youths’ affection for rap music that holy rappers have retained the positive elements of hip hop like fashion, b-boying (break dance) and graffiti to appeal to their core audience. In fact, there’s little difference between a local holy hip artiste and a gangsta rapper like 50 Cent, at least in outlook.

They look thuggish and rugged without being indecent; cornrows, bandanas, baseball caps and bling is their style. They wear baggy outfits without showing their drawers and use slang but avoid the F word and other profanities.

Interesting is seeing a guy with that “bad boy look” dripping Biblical verses and a message that brings life so much that a listener returns home feeling this joy and excitement and a conviction that the artiste has an intimate relationship with God. “We become all things to all men so that we may win some souls for Jesus,” says Renee. “What you see on the outside is our designer shell but our souls are very well.”

According to a feature film simply titled Holy Hip Hop (2006), produced and directed by American Christian rapper and actor Christopher “Play” Martin, holy hip hop movement began in the US in the late 1980s but is one of the fastest growing music genres today, with over 2000 active emcees and countless fans worldwide.

The exclusive video features several Christian rappers sharing personal testimonies of how God delivered them from the life of addictions (drugs, alcohol, sex, materialism etc.), and rearranged their thinking and lives. With the knowledge that hip hop is a more comprehensive way of expressing oneself, they turned to holy hip hop by which they share God’s love through spiritually-enlightening rhymes (songs).

Indeed those who were hooked to secular hip hop have after getting saved found in holy hip hop a perfect antidote to the likes of Snoop Dogg or Eminem that used to play in their CD Changers. The holy hip hop movement in Uganda, as it is, may be a crawling baby but it’s right on time considering the high number of young people that make the vibrant community of savadees.
The Levite Clan, Shalom Rapperz, Holy Rhapsody and Pure Souls, among others, comprise some of the local holy hip hop’s trailblazing artistes.

They got the much needed psychological and spiritual boost in 2007 when Sean Slaughter, the son of renowned worship leader, Alvin Slaughter, while in Uganda, said the greatest decision he made was quitting the fame and money as a producer of Wu-Tang Clan (an American hardcore rap group) and turning to holy hip hop after accepting Jesus Christ as his personal saviour.
Convinced that the global holy hip hop movement will change the youth culture profoundly, these soldiers of Christ have since become the local voices of holy hip hop who move to schools and universities, and are often spotted at crusades, Bible in one hand, microphone in the other, swaggering across the stage with a powerful message delivered behind heavy and infectious beats.

Gospel Night at Speke Hotel on Tuesdays, and during Change at Thursdays on JP Plaza – about the only spots that give Ugandan holy hip hop pre-eminence, these young energetic rappers continue to spit bars (slang for rap) to advertise the name of Jesus, and in so doing have blessed a number of souls.

“Holy hip hoppers rap and the sick get healed and the spiritually dead come to life” says Ivan “No Hell 01” Wobusobozi of The Levite Clan. He then tells the testimony of a Canadian lady who was changed by their song, Is God Really Good, off their debut album Christ in da Youth Culture (2007).

The woman’s son was in jail, and she was in rehab wrestling with drug addiction. But watching the song on U-tube, its message convicted her to repent. The song tries to answer the question we all pose as to whether God is fair, especially when we see good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people.

It’s one of the beauties about holy hip hop that while pastors are more confined to the church; holy hip hoppers see the world as their parish and try as much to reach as many people as they can.“We are called by God to change the face of hip hop music and the whole industry at large,” says Ivan “Brokim” Mujere of the Shalom Rapperz.

“However, it has become very hard for the world to understand that this genre of music can be used without having to be vulgar or explicit, that it can be used to bring change and hope.”

Without mincing words, Jonah “Eloquent” Ahimbisibwe of the holy hip hop duo Holy Rhapsody accuses gangsta rap of idolising sex, guns, material wealth, power and violence.

“But holy hip is a ministry on a mission to save urban youth from the highly poisonous songs of secular rap and help them refocus their attention on the cross of Jesus, so that they can live life to the fullest for the One that created us all.
--Sunday Monitor, April 26, 2009

Will the newly named Watoto Church change the destiny of Africa?

The house literally went down in Busega, Kyengera, as Kampala Pentecostal Church (KPC) celebrated 25 years of existence last week , writes Dennis D. Muhumuza

E xuberant volunteers lined up both sides of the road, waving flags, singing songs of welcome and crying out “Happy Birthday” to the arriving guests. Children played video games and jumped on castles with wild abandon. In the amphitheatre, adults engaged each other in the game of cards, played pool and played table tennis.

The stage exuded glory. The sound system was perfect. Mr. Exodus stole the show from Wilson Bugembe and Martin Sseku with Ganja man – the song that has popularised him in the gospel circles; the song in which he tells of how God changed him from “liquor-man ganja-man to preacher man”.

“If Jah is standing on ma side, then why should I be afraid to preach the gospel of my life,” he sang the melodious chorus.

And the now charged crowds lapped it up, danced and shot their arms in the air, completely carried away. The Watoto Children’s Choir evoked a hush with their sweet little voices, and Judith Babirye was overwhelming with her heavenly voice.

Not even the afternoon downpour could foil the fullness of joy. Here was celebrating God’s faithfulness, appreciating the prosperity He has earned KPC, and most of all, the lives He has touched through His church.

A 17-year-old girl, Percy, could not contain her gratitude. In a poem, she praised KPC, calling it “…a mother with a joyful spirit that touches every one who knows her…a home of the homeless…the lamp holder of the Pearl of Africa…”

It was in the thick of a civil war in Uganda in 1984 that God asked Ps Gary Skinner and his wife Marilyn to head to Kampala and plant an English-speaking church in the heart of the city.

At the time, as Marilyn said, this was a country people were not running to but a country everybody was running away from. But they heeded God’s call and that made all the difference. The church began in a room in Imperial Hotel with 75 people, but the number went up so rapidly they had to find a bigger place.

After more than a year in prayer, a door was opened and they got and later modelled what to-date remains the sanctuary that is on Kampala Road. It’s also out of the upsurge in the congregation that God impressed it upon Pastor Gary Skinner to turn KPC into a cell-based church as the best way of reaching out to every member of the congregation.

Today, the church has 1550 cells and over 20,000 people, but it’s for its charity that it’s renowned. Pastor Gary said it all began when God showed him in James 1: 27 what He considers pure and lasting religion: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.

This led to the birth of the Watoto Childcare Ministries in which 1,700 children are cared for, and Living Hope Ministries which has changed the lives of over 1,000 HIV/Aids positive women and widows.

The church has also reached out to the afflicted community in Gulu by opening a church there whose membership is now at over 1,200 people, and a ministry that rehabilitates former child rebels, bringing hope to the victims of war.

During the celebrations at Busega, it was known that KPC has changed name and everyone was awaiting the revelation. When Pastor Gary revealed the new name to be Watoto Church, the announcement was received with the longest and loudest standing ovation.

Watoto is Swahili for children, and in a country where 78 per cent of the population is under the age of 30, it’s only a matter of time and the future of the country will be in the hands of the young generation.

That’s why Watoto Church has as well started a school of community leadership in which over 300 young people pick leadership skills.

Pastor Gary is optimistic that in the next four to 20 years, the best pastors, scientists, economists, doctors, business men and political leaders who are not tainted by corruption, will emerge from the church of the Lord Jesus Christ to redeem the future for Africa.

“This nation has more young people than it has all people; this nation belongs to young people,” he said. “I believe this is the generation that needs to rise up and change the destiny and the future of this country of Uganda.” He shared his dream – a dream in which Watoto Church will be replicated across Africa, starting with South Africa and Zambia; before the sprawl covers the rest of the continent.

“God has spoken to us clearly,” he said. “We have had 25 fabulous years but it’s in the past, there are now 25 phenomenal years ahead of us…in the next 20 years I believe we can see, through, Watoto, two million desperate African children restored. God who has brought us to this place will not abandon us now and leave us to our own devices; Jesus is our pastor and I want you to know that He has a bright future for us.”

Wild exclamations of hallelujah went up, followed by the fireworks. The cake was cut and enjoyed, along with the icing. The masses soon found their various ways back home with happy hearts.

--Sunday Monitor, April 26, 2009

The fly on the wall at ‘Spoken Truth’

This night gives teens the platform to feel free in their skins and find freedom on the stage, writes Dennis Muhumuza

Beaming on the big projector is Def Jam comedy with Martin Lawrence cracking his audience up with crackling jokes. The American actor and comedian is then replaced with the impassioned Bob Marley, telling the audience to Get Up, Stand Up (for their rights).

It’s Tuesday, 8p.m, Club Rouge, during the new theme night code-named Spoken Truth –”The art of expression!” “We appreciate you coming over, ladies and gentlemen” the night’s emcee says with a twang. The house is nearly full.

In political parlance, that’s more than the quorum; the show is ready to roll. The teenagers in showy attires and heady attitude swagger onto the stage doing what brought them. One of them is wearing a pink t-shirt written on in bold white: “Backyard Superstar’They croon their hearts out about their affections. The patrons are seemingly having a good time; they sing along to some numbers, and their clapping is boisterous.

They recite poetry in English and local languages. Poems about unemployment, poverty, domestic violence, ritual murders, abortion, drug abuse, street life, name it. Some actually conjure up arresting images and frank observations on our society.

It’s time for the comics. Kenneth Tusubila, after his failed attempt at becoming the country’s official stand-up comedian, is here to lighten the hearts of the goers. He steps on stage but repeats the stuff that had him booted from the Stand-Up Comedy Uganda reality show. DJ Apeman, who calls himself “Africa’s finest deejay,” is scratching the turntables pompously and feeling his own vibes, precisely judging by the ostentatious way he nods his head to the beat.
With Tupac Shakur’s War Stories bouncing through the heavy speakers, a female rapper of the Bataka Squad calling herself the grandmother of Ugandan hip hop, flashes some “‘gangsta” signs and asks the ladies to holler.

“Lemme give you truth about a hussler,” she says, “Never fall in love, never be with one man!” As the fly on the wall recovers from the shock at the harm such a statement could cause innocent girls, the emcee grabs a mic and goes on about how “That sister is tight and all game!” Everyone claps.

A couple of budding rappers emerge from the audience for what is called “Freestyle Fellowship” – the session the organisers say brings to the surface the hidden talent, mbu “that will redefine Uganda’s music”.

“The world has been waitin’ for the resurrection of Ugandan hip hop,” says the emcee. “It’s Luga-flow time – the new platform for our tradition’s freedom of speech; bring it on, baby!”
Excitement kisses the ceiling. The fly thinks this enthusiasm is catalysed by the beers the guests are swigging. Meanwhile, a street baller of about 18 is on the stage doing killer tricks with a basketball. It’s way past 11p.m when the show climaxes. Stefan Jude Serunkuma, one of the organisers, reveals that Spoken Truth is the idea of Babaluku, the brains behind the hip hop outfit – Bavubuka Foundation.

“Half the Ugandan population are youth and they have got a lot to say,” he says. “Spoken Truth gives them the platform to feel free in their skins and find freedom on the stage; and through music, comedy, poetry and dancing, they reveal what’s on their mind.”

Sounds great but why late at night, moreover in a club? Serunkuma clears his voice and after a few seconds of contemplation says: “Our programme starts at 8p.m because “kids” finish school late. They can ask their parents for permission; at the end of the day it depends on the kind of person you are or the kind of parents you got.”

Serunkuma is unconvincing, and his friend, a visiting New Yorker named Angelica Towne, tries to bail him out thus: “This is a bar that’s positive. And nobody is telling you to drink. In fact, we are telling you to get your life together; do things that are positive. It’s showing them a different way of dealing with nightlife; of being with peers, of being cool.” We leave it at that, and head home.

--Sunday Monitor, April 26, 2009

Shining like gems in the dirt of poverty


You return home one evening to find an old boy with whom you went to school has invaded your house.

It’s been years but he says nothing about how he located your house or the reason for his visit. Days turn into weeks and months, and your uninvited guest, without shame, says he’s still waiting for the Holy Spirit to tell him when to leave.

We are talking of an eccentric, arrogant, impatient character, a man thrice your size, height and weight. He swigs your special wine, and worst of all has “an insatiable appetite of a cockroach.”
Crazy it may sound but that’s the plot of Godfrey Mwene Kalimugogo’s A Visitor Without a Mission.

Set in Kabale, the 189-page novel is, on the surface, about a pseudo born-again Christian whose conduct tests the limits of the patience of the gentlest of the gentlemen.

The author criticises the greed, corruption, deceit and the ostentation by “a few citizens who shine like gems in the mud and dirt of poverty.” The rapid, witty exchanges between the four main characters reveal much about a rotten and hopeless society, where the rich turn to dirty dealings in the fear of falling from the heights of wealth to the depth of poverty; while the impoverished spend sleepless nights cursing their poor lots in life.

The writer has closely observed the society he presents in this work of fiction, and hooks the reader with bouts of humour and the masterful presentation of Livingston (Livvie) as a conceited fellow most of us hate to deal with.

The conflict between Nathan (Nat) – the narrator, and Livvie, is quite dramatic. Nat presses all the buttons to establish Livvie’s mission but much to his chagrin, his visitor keeps evading him with devilish cunningness.

Livvie justifies his manic love of wine, claiming the first miracle Jesus Christ made was turning water into wine. This drama is even captured on the book cover, showing him reclining in a sofa with a bottle of wine and a Bible resting on the nearby table.

The author’s strength lies in his powerful reliance on dialogue to keep the reader entertained. That makes A Visitor Without a Mission far different from the many Ugandan novels I’ve read.
In fact, his style is reminiscent of Oscar Wilde’s, especially in the use of satire and pithy dialogue, and Richard Wright’s Lawd Today, as in the loquaciousness of his protagonists. Godfrey Mwene Kalimugogo is also the author of Dare to Die (1972), The Pulse of the Woods (1973), Trials and Tribulations in Sandu’s Home (1974), Pilgrimage to Nowhere (1974), The Department (1975), The Prodigal Chairman (1980), and Sandu the Prince (1984).

--Sunday Monitor, April 26, 2009

Ugandans need to move out of this literary desert


As Uganda joined other countries to celebrate World Book and Copyright Day yesterday (April 23), I’m impelled to comment on the state of our literary landscape.

A number of readers and writers associations, booksellers and newspapers have tried to popularise creativity and promote our reading culture. Still, you cannot call our book industry vibrant. The annual National Book Week and the literary week of activities organised by the National Book Trust of Uganda (Nabotu) and the Uganda Female Writers Association (Femrite), are still poorly planned and attended.

The best seller list in bookshops like the one held by street booksellers has books on the national syllabus. Manuscripts from creative writers are shelved in preference to instructional materials for schools. It means few school goers read beyond the curriculum and those who do turn to the works of foreign authors like Stephen King and Barbara Taylor.

I participate in book exchange programmes and I see the popular titles. I’ve interviewed several booksellers who say foreign authors far outpace native writers in sales. At a number of literary workshops I’ve attended, one of the major concerns has been on how to get Ugandans to embrace our literature.

You will get a grip one of these days when you conduct a random survey; ask how many have read Doreen Baingana’s award-winning Tropical Fish or even Julius Ocwinyo’s Fate of the Banished which is on the A-Level Literature syllabus. No wonder Okot p’Bitek’s Song of Lawino remains the best known literary work from Uganda. But is our nation still “a literary desert” as was labelled by Prof. Taban lo Liyong in 1962?

No. The problem is the inexistence of incentives to catalyse the production of the kind of creative works that will shape the social and intellectual lifestyle of this country as well as empower citizens to stand up for their rights.

In Nigeria and Kenya, leaders have had to tread carefully well knowing Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and Ngugi wa Thiongo always have their pens ready.

In the days of apartheid in South Africa, protest literature from Dennis Brutus and Alex La Guma, among others, gave a voice to the oppressed and emboldened Nelson Mandela and his group to fight on. Last year in Zimbabwe, Raisedon Baya and Chrisopher Mlalazi’s play The Crocodile of Zambezi was banned and other critical writings have shaken President Robert Mugabe and made the power-sharing deal a reality.

Having on the mind what former American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, that books are weapons, it’s time Ugandan writers faced the challenge of using the written word to battle the evil forces troubling our motherland.

Unfortunately, unlike in Kenya and Tanzania, Uganda has no registered organisation that manages copyright or reproduction rights on behalf of authors or that works with Copyright Officer in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to enforce the protection of intellectual property through Copyright.

Consequently, gifted individuals have shunned full time writing for fear they will die poor. But more alarming is that there is no way a country can preserve its literary heritage in a situation like this.

English philosopher Francis Bacon once said knowledge itself is power, so we should use World Book and Copyright Day to laud those who have through books provided the knowledge to further quality education.

We should also lobby NGOs and copyright bodies in other countries to help the Uganda Reproduction Rights Organisation (URRO) which is being formed, as well as boost the literary endeavours of this country so that the love of reading and writing can be resuscitated.

--Daily Monitor, April 24, 2009

Ssajjabbi’s Art inspires poetry


Solo exhibitions at the national gallery are as rare as self-taught artists based upcountry coming to exhibit there. But on Friday April 3, Ssajjabbi Edward Kamugisha changed that with a grand opening at Nommo Gallery of an art exhibition that will close on April 30, 2009.

Some of Uganda’s finest fine artists, students of art, and art enthusiasts were there to witness the collection of artworks from the Kabale-born and based artist, under the theme, The Moments I Love. Ssajjabbi’s art is gentle, luminous and quite charming. He captures life in motion: women going to the garden, children playing, animals in the wild, plants, and the serenity of nature. Outstanding among the 50 artworks on display is Survival of the Fittest, depicting an old man sculpting a wooden cup. It’s a captivating artwork infused with a hidden message: a real man must earn his living.

Woman of Kigezi is a painting of a woman, child on the back, basket on her head, and hoe on her shoulder. The other women and children in the background give it vividness that reminds one of the hardworking village women we often met on their way to the garden on our way to school.

At the Quarter Guard shows four beautiful crested cranes in a graceful match while Big Bums is a painting of zebras. One cannot forget the facial expression in the painting of a man playing his lute; it’s an expression that fills your heart with a longing for good music, the kind your great grandfather must have played by the fireside many years ago.

All these works were inspired by real life experiences, and the 45-year-old artist admits he’s an unrelenting naturalist and realist that goes to the field everyday to study people, plants, animals, stones, birds, and generally nature.

I’ve interviewed many artists who seem to worship the distinct touch of Maria Naita and Taga Nuwagaba. I’ve seen their works; quite distinct, but none have had a profound effect on me like the works of this relatively unknown artist.

Ssajjabi, who has participated in several local and international exhibitions, and is among the few Ugandans to have held a solo exhibition at October Gallery, the prestigious London gallery, has inspired many Ugandan artists including Roland Tiburusya. “His art sparked off the zeal I have about painting,” says Tiburusya.

“He’s the finest painter; so philosophical with feelings, has a spirit of nationalism, and a deep sense of admiration of beauty, glamour and style in his paintings and drawings.”

He uses oil on canvas, water colour, and then oil pastels on canvas, but it’s a combination of realism in his compositions, dynamism with motion, the expression of emotions and the mastery of his colour schemes that make his creations different.

And art lover Loyce Kwikiriza was influenced by Ssajjabi’s works to write poetry. In one, she writes, “Your talent is unlimited as you touch every heart with emotions untold…you open the world to us with scenes of life’s realities…the animals, the mountains, the hotsprings, the toils of men, the burdens reaches its core ....”

--Sunday Monitor, April 19, 2009

Women art reveals much at Makerere


Women are more determined than ever to use all means available to drum up for equality
This much is clear, judging by the intensity of the several pieces in an ongoing art exhibition at Makerere Art Gallery. The exhibition, which closes on April 15 but was opened on March 20 to commemorate Womens’ Day, attracted some of the country’s finest female artists.

On display are the cryptic, the beautiful and the austere; all forms of small and big paintings and drawings that attempt to portray the fortitude of the Ugandan woman.

The pieces arouse critical interest because they transcend the obvious girly style of feminine colours and soft tonalities. Their art has so peaked and taken on a demanding element with themes that carry an urgent message.

Such titles like “We are also significant,” “Movers of the world” and “The Struggle begins”, reflect the fears that still grip the Ugandan woman, but also the belief in themselves, and how unfazed they remain in the pursuit of equal rights.

Maria Naita’s “Education is the ladder” and another painting of a little girl with an encouraging note: “Go girl, believe in you and whoever you dream to be,” are some of the pieces that capture the theme of the exhibition – “Increasing Investment in Girls’ Education as a Prerequisite for Development”.

According to exhibitor, Sarah Nakisanze, a woman is “mother earth, a package of knowledge”. Then there’s Jessica’s black and white drawing titled “Child Mother”.
It shows a child passionately suckling its mother’s breast. And a note next to the small framed piece says the 17-year-old artist “hopes that through her art the heart of God opens”.

The viewer might have a good laugh finding a piece titled “Gossip Time” considering that women are viewed as big gossips. There are other adorable ones like Donald Nantagya’s sketches of dancing girls, and a framed portrait that says “a praying mum profits much” and Felix Lubega’s “Mother and Child” in which he used banana fibre on board for the best effect.

The paintings are supplemented with newspaper cuttings of articles on women empowerment, the strength of women and pro girl-child education.

The board in one corner of the gallery shows what intriguing expressionists our women have become, for it’s littered with lucid quips, giving away a great deal about the intimacy, the trust, the love, and all the good things about women, while presenting men as highly chauvinistic and unrepentant subjugators. Overall, the exhibition makes it crystal clear that Uganda’s female artists have learnt to distil their experiences and capture them with a brush on canvas, seducing the world into having a deeper interest in them.

The exhibition is organised by the Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Arts and Gender Mainstreaming Division, Makerere University.

--Sunday Monitor, April 12, 2009

Let art beautify your home

Many people are turning to visual arts to style up their rooms, houses or hotels, writes Dennis D. Muhumuza

That age when individuals would liven their rooms with newspaper cuttings of beautiful women, cars, or their favourite actors, writers, and musicians, is quickly fizzling out. many people are turning to visual arts to style up their rooms, houses or hotels.
Ugandan fine artists have risen to the occasion not only by creating more stunning works (as seen at exhibitions and in their studios), but have also reached out to find market for their artistic works in homes and restaurants, and among individuals whose sense of style continues to advance with modernity. As a result, art pieces of all forms and designs are the decorative accessories that have become part and parcel of living rooms, the interior of banks, schools, and offices.

You need to visit such places like the Kampala SerenaHotel, Antonio’s Grill on Pioneer Mall or a friend you haven’t visited in a long while, to get the picture.
Hanging on the walls of Speak Out Restaurant in Nakulabye are little but very beautiful abstract pieces that absorbed me as I waited to be served. Baker Matovu, the proprietor, said many of his customers love the pieces and often ask him where he bought them.

Ugandan painter Juma Lubega, who has created many of the art pieces that colour the interior of Antonio’s Grill, says he gets many people asking him to visit and paint walls of their rooms.
Oh yes, art on walls can be beautiful. You must know this if you have seen ‘Vertebrates and Invertebrates’ – the pair of mosaic panes on the façade of the Zoology Department at Makerere University, or the bright decorations on the face of Tropical Bank in the city centre.

“The rising popularity of art as décor lies in its uniqueness of beauty and the lovely ambience it adds to a room or place,” says interior designer Lillian Asiimwe.

She however says to be careful to rhyme the artworks with the wall colour and the place one wants to decorate – be it the living room or the bedroom. Asiimwe says using art as décor tells a great deal about the personality or style of the individual.

Some prefer intricate designs, others landscapes or paintings of animals or plants on their walls; depending on one’s taste and style. She advises against putting so many pieces put up lest you turn your beautiful place into an art gallery of sorts. Whatever the case, no longer should your room look boring in this age.

Go ahead and turn to decorative arts, but don’t forget to strike a balance in the range of the artworks used, and the colour. Therein is the secret to having a vividly attractive and romantic place.

--Sunday Monitor, April 5, 2009