Friday, August 04, 2017

The 27th Comrade Has Been Silenced



In the end, I have to confess I did not understand you, 27th Comrade. For me, you were the 27th Comrade and will always be with Communist Socks and Boots. In death (Thursday, August 03, 2017), I’m learning you were called Revence Kato-Kalibwani. 

Police PRO tweet that informed us of 27th Comrade's fate
It feels wrong, learning all these things. You were against labels, pigeon-holing, subscribing to someone else’s definitions. You were an outlaw, fighting for the right of outlaws to be heard. You wanted to change Uganda, you wanted to change Africa, heck, you wanted to change the world and you were already thinking this way before you were out of your teenage years. 

This is the Revence I knew from the 27th Comrade blog on the Google Blogger platform in 2007 when you were only 22. Words were your weapons, not a jerican of petrol and a knife as your accusers at CafĂ© Javas claim. Even the tagline on your blog from 2009 said so, “May the Bright Revolution find you on the Winning Side — Common Blessing in Pre-historic Uganda.” 

I’m going through everything I saved of 27th from that time 2007-2010, looking for clues of what I might have missed. I still cannot bring myself to believe 27th Comrade would want to hurt anyone. The only news video I have watched of what happened, suggests it was a misunderstanding that escalated out of hand and a mob gathered. 

Yet when I read from a rant he posted a day before his death, I cannot wish it away either, “"If a condemned facility is not evacuated and made safely available to the

  agents of the Crown, within 24 hours of being served the notice of

  condemnation and seizure, it will be liable to fierce and unannounced attack

  on suspicion of being insubordinate.



As this notice is going out with the initial attacks in Kampala, scheduled for

within the first week of August, 2017..."

I read this and want to weep, "What were you thinking?"

But I do not want to remember you like that, a wild hairedthreat to people sipping their coffee and tea and eating out of Pizza Royale fast food snack boxes, as they want me to remember you. I refuse to remember you like that. 

I want to remember you like I knew you in 2007 and in 2013 and always. 

One more time, for Revence, the 27th Comrade, 

“"I am dying—literally dying—to send my mother a bottle of red wine. I want to be strong like a real man, but when I think how far my Ma is from me, far away in Babylon, I just go away from where anybody can see me, and I cry. There, I said it. I cry, because I miss my Mama to madness. I would go to Babylon to see her, but those muhfuckers will refuse to let me through. Now I want her to drink wine I have selected for her. Mummy, I love you. Just hold on for a little bit, I'll send you nice red Bordeaux, exactly as you like it, Mummy. That leave I told you about, it has made me broke. But when I get me a salary, I'll send you a surprise present. Music CDs and a bottle of fine, red wine.



Jesus, talking about my Ma just gets me emotional.



My dreadlocks haven't seen the inside of a hair parlour for so long. They have that raw, guerilla look about them. I love it intensely, but I like when the lady at the hair parlour rubs it with thick, colourful shampoos and massages it with her eyes closed, and says she wishes it were hers, and I say I wish hers were mine, instead, and we both laugh and I say I'd, in fact, love to have her boobs as well, and she says I can have them, and I say Oh, that's cool, and she says it's up to me when, and I am feeling really brave, and I say we could just slip into some upper room and I get my boobs, and she says I am going to be done with work at eight, and eight o'clock comes, and I am too shy to show up to `get my boobs'. This time, maybe I'll be brave."

Revence on his beloved bike in Entebbe in 2013

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Cars at the Uganda Vintage and Classic Auto Show 2017


 July 29, 2017 was a special Saturday in the life of Ugandan car lovers. At exactly 10:00am, Sheraton Hotel started to receive guests turning up for the Uganda Vintage and Classic Auto Show 2017.

Side profile of a 1965 Mercedes Benz

The annual event is in it's sixth year and 2017 probably had more entries than have ever entered the show.
Gates just opened for the 2017 Ugandan auto show

While shows like the 2013 edition this blogger attended had been dominated by classic Mercedes Benzes and Volkswagen Kombis,' there are now just as many Toyotas', Jaguars and American car brands like Ford. In fact, a yearly entrant is a rare Ford Model A.

Preferential attendant Ford Model A

Sure the theme of classic or vintage wear attracted a somewhat eccentric dress sense among a few guests that turned up, but mostly the event has started to become a true enthusiasts gathering.

1957 Mercedes Benz 190SL

The 2017 show was mostly about the cars and those who wanted a chance to look at them closely turned up relatively early though the show ended somewhere after 9:00pm. Why would a car show wind up so late in the dark in poorly lit Kampala? Because every social event must come with an appetizer of music performance, for this year Madoxx Ssematimba was the main artist.

I was there for the cars, and cars galore I got. Not even the thirty minute downpour after 1pm, soggy Sheraton Gardens grass and all, could stop the enchanted hours long walkaround.





















Thursday, July 27, 2017

There Was Once a Building





One day, your father or mother will sit you upon the knee and tell you a story about a wonderful building that no longer exists. Your father or mother will tell you that thisbuilding was called the National Theatre by everyone who knew it though in the paper work, in the government documentation, it was called the Uganda NationalCultural Centre. The UNCC 8th October 1959, a day before Independence Day for Uganda. 

Maybe that is the embryo of why the National Theatre was set down on Dewinton Road opposite the other most important building in the land, the Parliament of Uganda. Culture and Politics. Politics and Culture. Rule with the blessing of the people, understand the people you rule. But that’s not what was always on your parents’ minds every time they stopped to be swiped over before entering the National Theatre gates. The National Theatre was home. The signal tower for them whenever they happened to be in Kampala with an hour or two on their hands. The National Theatre was always there, with open arms from its open piano face, to welcome the prodigal travellers back. 


It was at the National Theatre that your parents’ first started to imbibe what restaurants called, “African tea.” Not the sulkily served Nasser road African tea by dirty blue apron wiping hands in plastic Tumpecos. National Theatre African tea could have an aroma, a variety of herbs brought together by that magician who never wanted to leave the kitchen until your parent insisted they wanted to thank them personally. 

In that little restaurant at the back of National Theatre, they probably first locked eyes across the many tables taking a second too long not to look away, and you were not too far off anymore. But before you came along, there would be many Friday evenings in the dimly lit auditorium waiting for the antique chime of bell that Theatre Factory were on stage, scramble for seats. Theatre Factory, FunFactory, Pablo Live, comic acts regenerating a fire of an industry that had almost died out. Or only embers were smoking. National Theatre at the heart of that revival. 

The dusty, creaking National Theatre boards were the stages far flung Namasagali, Namagunga, Kings College Buddo, St Mary’s College Kisubi thespians rehearsing, every Saturday and Sunday, behind their classroom blocks dreamed of strutting. Parents in the audience wiping tears, siblings applauding during the national secondary schools drama competitions. 

For your parents, perhaps, the National Theatre was where their own parents used to stop after Sunday prayers from Christ the King or All Saints Church, negotiating for a walk down to Bimbo Ice Cream after the scarcity and fear of the 1980s.
Your grandparents talking over your parents heads about National Theatre legends like Okot p’Bitek, Byron Kawadwa, Stephen Rwangyezi refusing to let theatre die. Sometimes at the cost of their own lives.

They remember, like you will never know, when the Uganda National Cultural Centre was one of the beating hearts of an entity called Uganda no one wanted but came to love. But you will never know all this because you will only ever see the NationalTheatre in photos, a background in forgotten selfies.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Revolution is almost always stolen

The revolution is almost always stolen. Examine most big ideas that change the world, most were appropriated. The story is no different with the globally famous McDonald's, the fast food giant. This is the story told in The Founder (2016) directed by John Lee Hancock.

Michael Keaton is mesmirising as Ray Kroc, the man most people think of when they think of McDonald's. Kroc is a struggling 52-year-old salesman who will not give up a burning ambition to be a more than average success. But it seems like the stunning success he craves will never be his until he runs into two brothers Richard (Nick Offerman) and Maurice McDonald (John Carroll Lynch) who run a successful restaurant in San Bernardino, California.

The McDonald's restaurant is booming when Kroc stumbles upon it. The McDonald brothers have innovated a fast food system that ensues a customer receives their order almost as soon as they pay. Kroc wants in on what they are creating. The Founder is about what he does get first, a foot and then more, in. It is terrible and thrilling to watch.

Today, the McDonald's history barely mentions the brothers who gave it not just its name but the system that makes it so effective. The Founder, in part, is about how they were robbed of their creation. But it is also about business; what it takes to start it, grow it and ensure it survives all competition.

Do you know what is really strange about The Founder? You will fail to hate Ray Kroc. Or at least Michael Keaton's Ray Kroc.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Made in Uganda Bronze Sculptures Show

There is a fine, little, unpretentious show of bronze sculptures you must go and see if you are interested in the arts at the Uganda Museum.

The sculptures on show are by David Bwambale, Emmanuel Basaza, Eria Sane Nsubuga, Jon Buck, Peter Oloya, Isaac Okwir. I have never heard of them but a few pieces stand out that I will keenly follow their future work.

Isaac Okwir has a style all of his own that once you look at one sculpture, you will almost always be able to identify his work even if it is not labelled. He slaps together pieces of bronze to create his sculptures the way a painter dashes paint slabs on a canvas. Almost in a fury or from too much passion. There is a lot of emotion here. Unchecked emotion that the sculptures should be ugly. They are not.

His Lango Mama is a delicate tribute to motherhood, inspired no doubt by a familiar rustic scene of a woman with a child on her back. What makes the piece stand out for this art lover are the observed maternal touches: her head is turned away from our gaze in concern that the child on her back should be adequately shaded. In turning, she stands with one hip cocked. Forcing you to come closer to see this baby who has all her attention.

Jon Buck's The Clansman immediately reminds me, at least, of that memorable Christopher Okigbo portrait on Dr Ali Mazrui's grief memoir The Trial of Christopher Okigbo. Why does it do that? This sculpture has as much presence as that photograph of one of Africa's most revered poets. All superfluities shorn away, the essence of the man left. To see that sculpture alone is worth the trip to the Uganda Museum.

Nothing else Buck has on display matches the stunning power of that sculpture. But what a sculpture!

There are little takeaways from the show too. Art you can carry with you everywhere in form of key rings by David Bwambale. Bwambale's key rings are inspired by clan totems like the Pangolin and the monkey. He also has paper weights in the show.

Speaking about his work, Bwambale explains, "The paper weights represent the big five famous animals we have in the country and other animals people love a lot. These include the elephant, the rhino, the cheetah and the warthog."

Although the choice of what the sculptures will represent is based on consumer demand, Bwambale says the artists are also concerned to educate their audience that some of the animals are endangered. Hence the proliferation of animals like the pangolin throughout the show.

The exhibitors all work under the Ruwenzori Sculpture Foundation. This Kasese foundry has an interesting story all of its own we hope to share soon.

But for now, you can go any day of the week 10am to 5pm, free entry, to the Uganda Museum to see these sculptures yourself. But hurry. The show closes October 19. It opened October 11.