Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 & Unjumping 2 Jump!


What a year! And right at the tip end of it, I discovered another Ugandan poem written in our lifetime that I will be quoting from years and years to come. They are few, those quotable Ugandan poems I love, and each new stumble-upon thrills me! This poem, Unjumping, is from Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva’s chap book of poetry, Unjumping published in October 2010. 

It is a perfect year ender, it is an even more perfect year beginner, one I wish you all, wish myself, wish Uganda... 

Unjumping 

Today i decided to unjump
A Knock Out 2011!
To unsing the song of yesteryear
To unsweep the dirt of last time
Running, Unjumping and Running from myself
I need to unjump
So I can JUMP
Today I decided to unfeel
To undo my deeds
Today I decided to unfeel
To undo my deeds
To unwrite my story
Undoing, Unjumping and Undoing myself
I need to unjump
So I can JUMP
I unthink, I unlearn, I uncry
I JUMP

Happy New Year, dear M & C readers!

Sundance Institute Calling All East African Artists-don't miss this!!!


Have you ever heard of these guys? They are a big deal.  And they are moving East Africa-ways, which is giddying news for all artists, musicians, lovers of the arts, and those who believe they create beautiful, odd things that would otherwise never get a hearing. 

If you are such an artist, this is your chance to try yourself against the best in the region…

The short of it... 
Sundance Institute East Africa is receiving submissions from East African Artists residing in East Africa. The submissions are for live performance only (-meaning if you have a play, story, poem, dance piece set to text and music that can be adopted for stage-all these are eligible) The second theatre lab on Manda Island is scheduled to take place from July 17th to July 31st 2011. The deadline to receive submissions is quickly approaching. If you would like to submit your script, please send it to Deborah_Asiimwe@sundance.org or to theatreeastafrica@sundance.org by January 15th 2011. Should you have any questions, do not hesitate to get in touch with Deborah at the above given email addresses. 

 The Longer bit.... 




Dear East African theatre artists, colleagues and friends:

Greetings from New York City in the U.S.A.! We are writing to provide you with an update on Sundance Institute East Africa activities for Year Four of our initiative. Our plan is to return to East Africa in July 2011 for our second Theatre Lab on Manda.

As you know, Sundance Institute East Africa is a program supporting exposure and exchange between U.S. and East African theatre artists. As in the U.S., our goal is to encourage the growth of individual artistic voices through mentorship and professional development opportunities. In both the design and the implementation of the Sundance Institute East Africa program, we are working to recognize and honor the specific cultural, social, political, and artistic realities of East African life, unique to each country as well as to the region.

WHAT'S BEEN ACCOMPLISHED SO FAR
In Year 1, five American theatre artists from the Sundance Institute Theatre Program, along with two artists from each Rwanda and Tanzania, participated in an exploratory visit to meet East African theatre artists in Nairobi, Kenya and Kampala, Uganda. In addition, Sundance Institute East Africa Artistic Associate Roberta Levitow attended the EATI (East African Theatre Institute) Festival in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in November 2008. In Year 2, four American theatre artists and one Ugandan performer/producer made visits to Rwanda and Tanzania in an effort to meet additional East African theatre artists.  In Year 3, Sundance Institute East Africa conducted its first ever Theatre Lab on the island of Manda in Kenya. It was a three-week developmental retreat that provided the participating artists with the support of dramaturgs, mentors and a company of performers. The projects selected for the 2010 Lab were;
Cut Off My Tongue (Kenya) Sitawa Namwalie, playwright/performer; Lillian Amimo Olembo, performer/choreographer

The Book of Life (Rwanda) Odile Gakire Katese, conceiver/director; Ruzibiza Wesley, choreographer; Samuel Kamanzi, composer/performer; Mutangana Moise, composer/performer; Goretti Amurere, writer

Africa Kills Her Son (Tanzania) An Adaptation of Africa Kills Her Sun by Ken Saro-Wiwa; Mrisho Mpoto, adapter/performer; Gilbert Lukalia, director; Irene Sanga, writer/singer; Elidady Msangi, composer

Silent Voices (Uganda) Lucy Judith Adong, playwright; Grace Flavia Ibanda, choreographer; Jacob Otieno, director; Melvin Alusa, performer

Also participating were Creative Advisor George Seremba, playwright and from Uganda/Ireland; Andnet Dagnew, playwright, director and actor from Ethiopia; and Hellen Alumbe, storyteller and producer from Kenya.

WHAT'S NEXT  
In Year 4, we are delighted to announce that in July 2011, Sundance Institute East Africa will conduct its second Theatre Lab on the island of Manda, Kenya. This Lab will be a two-week developmental retreat providing a protected creative environment for East African playwrights and directors to develop new work with the support of dramaturgs, mentors and where possible, a company of performers. Our goal is to offer an independent-minded community for artists to engage with their work and with each other, building text, asking questions and taking risks.
The dates for the Sundance Institute East Africa Theatre Lab on Manda are July 17th – July 31st, 2011.
Please note: All participants must be available for the entire length of the Lab.

HOW CAN YOU PARTICIPATE

Sundance Institute East Africa is accepting open submissions from East African artists for live performance ONLY.  We are looking to support projects submitted by East African artists based in East Africa.  Sundance Institute East Africa welcomes applications for projects at any stage of development, but a full representation of the eventual vision for a work-in-progress is necessary. In order for Sundance Institute East Africa to fully evaluate your submission, in addition to submitting a play script, we require two statements:
  1. an artistic statement expressing your artistic goals for your project (including all key collaborators involved, meaning those people essential to the advancement of the project), along with the exact number and description of actors/musicians/dancers you would ideally need for your project) and
  2. a statement of how you intend to benefit your community of artists with the experience gained after participating in the Theatre Lab on Manda. In addition, we also require Resumes/Bios for each collaborator (e.g. director, choreographer, etc.).
Creative teams (playwright/director) are permitted and encouraged to apply together; (for example, East African playwright with American director, or East African playwright with African director) however, if you do not have a director attached to your project, please note that Sundance Institute East Africa will help to match you up with a director if your play is selected for inclusion in the Lab. 

Sundance Institute East Africa is interested in receiving submissions from both established and emerging theatre artists, as well as artists making a transition from areas outside of theatre. We welcome solo performers and projects for young audiences.  Artists can only submit one project. Previous applicants may re-apply. For example, if you have sent scripts for consideration over the last three years, you are permitted to re-apply with the same project provided you feel that the project has made some progress in its development. Please follow the same application process described above.

PROJECT SELECTION
Through open submissions, Sundance Institute East Africa looks for original, compelling, human stories that reflect the independent vision of the theatre artist. We are interested in supporting a diverse and daring group of theatre artists who tell unique stories, present material in a new form, or conceptualize existing material with an innovative vision. We look for writers and collaborators who are interested in genuinely exploring their material. We believe that the Theatre Lab on Manda is more than a "space to rehearse"; but is an environment that encourages and supports risk-taking, experimentation, and rigorous re-writing and re-imagining. All submissions will be read by the Sundance Institute East Africa staff. Every effort will be made to include the participation of representatives from each of the countries in the region. 

WHAT SUNDANCE INSTITUTE PROVIDES
Each full-time participating artist will receive a $500 USD expense reimbursement. Each project will be developed with a shared company of East African actors (as applicable), selected by Sundance Institute East Africa in collaboration with the lead artist of the selected projects. Sundance Institute will provide for round-trip travel expenses between all selected participants’ homes and Manda, Kenya, including air and ground transportation if available. Participants will also be provided with accommodations and all meals while at the Lab.

The Sundance Institute Theatre Program will manage the selection of actors from East Africa, as well as mentors. At the end of the Theatre Lab, projects will culminate in an informal presentation for the Lab community only, followed by a feedback session with Sundance Institute artistic staff and guest Creative Advisors (mentors).

HOW T O APPLY                                                                                                                                                                                               
STEP ONE
You are permitted to apply with only one project.  Make sure you submit all the application materials.
Materials include:
  • Script Draft of your play or live performance piece.  Videos and photographs are acceptable. 
  • One page Artistic Statement (If applying as a playwright/director team, Sundance Institute requires a statement from both the playwright and director.)
    • Describe the status of the project, including prior readings and workshops, and what you hope to accomplish while at the Lab. Include comments on the content, style of the piece and the team's objectives for the workshop. Please include the number of actors your project requires and specific descriptions of each role.
  • Resumes, bios or CV's for each collaborator, including up-to-date contact information.
  • One Page Statement of how you intend to benefit your artistic community after your Lab experience.
STEP TWO
Send us your materials via email to theatreeastafrica@sundance.org or via airmail to:
Sundance Institute East Africa
180 Varick St, Suite 1330



Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Politics Matter


I used to hate politics. Passionately. 
Politics is bad for you! Leave it alone.

I thought nothing was more wearying than being trapped in one of those fourteen seater commuter taxis with a tuft bearded driver whose hand was more on the dial of the taxi radio than on the steering wheel. The dial skittering over screaming frequencies in frantic search of radio political talk shows, fleeing from evening radio music countdown shows-to find the likes of Tamale Mirundi (before he became a Ugandan Presidential Advisor), the Meddie Nsereko’s (before the old spirit of CBS FM radio was crushed after the September 2009 riots), or Andrew Mwenda (when he was still part of Monitor FM, when he was still part of MPL, when you would never dream he could defend a government functionary). 

When I could, I would get out of the taxi and walk. Wishing I owned a Sony Walkman (yes, it was not that long ago though it seems so! Just 2005 here-here!), like some people I knew who owned some, before mobile phones that had FM radio functions became available and I could tune in a station of my choice. 

All I wanted from life, all I asked was for the opportunity to get a very good book to read from time to time, places where to buy many movies I had grown up hearing about on the CNN movie review segments and wanted to watch for myself, friends once in a while to invite over to my small house to share tots of whiskey and just talk, after a day’s work, after a week’s work-as we planned where we would go together, when we had saved up enough money, when our schedules synchronised perfectly, see some of the beauties of Uganda for ourselves, and take ‘villager’ photos posing infront of them, mementos for life. 

I wanted nothing to do with politics. I had ‘seen’ what politics had done to some of what I considered the best minds Uganda had ever had. In polite society phrases at the back of his books, I had read of the heartbroken alcoholic exile of literary greats like Okot P’Bitek (who to this astonishing day no public memorial of exists in Uganda), how the chance of now world greats in the arts like Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, the Christopher Okigbo’s, why even VS Naipaul had briefly considered settling down in Kampala, Uganda then the politics (I thought) chased them away and the opportunity of Kampala becoming another Vienna of the 18th century, a Berlin of the 19th century, a New York of the 20th century vanished with their hot on their heels fleeing. 

I had even more personal examples for loathing politics. For dreading that arena that seemed, once you got in, you could never entirely leave. As if you had kissed the first soft lips of a woman and could never forget her. 

We used, in the early 2000s, with some friends to walk along Kampala road, truant from class and school, looking for what I don’t know! But we would, walking as far from them as possible (did we think bad luck, misfortune, was contagious?), slow down near Uganda House and point out to each other old men with greying Obote haircuts and worse frayed coats who we had heard once upon a time were some of the most powerful men in Uganda. Men who now sat unseeing around Uganda House, sometimes in slippers with bilaka as if, even after all these years, they were still recovering from a thunder strike that had left them dazed. Politics did that to them, we would whisper to each other, and recount to each other ‘stories’ we had heard of how those personages used to live, when they were still in power, when the Uganda People’s Congress was its zenith and Milton Obote was in every Ugandan life like he was on the bank notes. 

So I used to hate politics. 

Thought it very good advice whenever I was told, “Stay away from politics. Politics is bad. You don’t need politics.”  

It is the message we 1980s children grew up hearing. It is the message we were encouraged to pass onto our 1990s siblings. That they are passing onto the 2000s generation. It is the very same message that encouraged the mube bakakamu (be calm, take it easy) response upon every outrage that was perpetuated by poor leadership or deliberate misrule. 

So today...

...I have go down to Owino Market, hoping the luck is with me, I may find a good book because the books I would wish to read are priced out of my tattered brown wallet range most of the time in Aristoc Booklex so that sometimes ignorance seems more affordable...it goes back to the politics...

...I put off going to a doctor, self-medicating (Is there any Ugandan who does not have a small pharmacy in their house?), for as long as I can; incredulous when I still hear from some old people that once upon a time you could go to hospital and the government would pay for you through the taxes you were paying...politics...

...I listen but I do not believe when people from those days tell me how when you started working, in government or privately, within a year you were expected to own a car and your own house, no excuses, government schemes were there, so discouraged from questioning the ‘wisdom’ of certain economic policies that made it so that today I should expect nothing from the government but continue to pay to maintain until I nearly forgot that to have an opinion is not a crime...really politics...

Like I have said, I used to hate politics. Passionately.

Every day you remain silent; you’re cheated out of your inheritance

Monday, December 27, 2010

Death Watch: Bugisu Cooperative Union


In case you are little aware, machinations are going on backstage to change the leadership of the Bugisu Cooperative Union, perhaps the only remaining Ugandan farmers union left in Uganda that even attempts to uplift their status. The other cooperative unions from other regions of Uganda long ago collapsed under the dubious privatisation craze that gripped Uganda in the early 1990s and are rusting shells of what they once were. The BSU is the only one left standing, and it was not  even just three years ago before Nandala Mafabi, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, for the Budadiri West seat in Sironko District took over and turned it around. 

A little background perhaps might help...from Don Wanyama's blog....(WARNING: SO presciently does the post read you have to wonder if Don knew this mess was coming, a whole year ago. If only all profiles in Ugandan papers were as thorough!)



Monday, December 14, 2009

The fever is slowly catching on. People are setting eyes on several prizes ahead of the 2011 political festival. One huge anticipated race will be that between the Presidency Minister Beatrice Wabudeya (NRM) against Nandala Mafabi, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, for the Budadiri West seat in Sironko District.

What we shall witness, after Wabudeya declared she would no longer go for the Sironko Woman seat and instead move turf to Budadiri West, will be a culmination of two dissimilar journeys of politicians largely known.

Wabudeya jumped into the political fray in 1996, taking the Mbale Woman seat in a grueling battle with then UEB boss Irene Muloni. Coming from a humble veterinary profession, hers was a real coup—but the even bigger surprise was her inclusion on cabinet as a Primary Health Care minister thereafter. Of course this political foundation was mainly attributed to the silent support she got from then powerful NRM Political Commissar and Speaker of Parliament, James Wapakhabulo. Wabudeya and Housing Minister Werikhe Gabafusa were Wapakhabulo’s two projects that he helped not just win seats but find slots for in cabinet.
And yet for Wabudeya—hers was never a clear political path. Largely said to be aloof—it occurred to her that fighting for the Mbale Woman seat was going to be a tall order—she tactfully withdrew to the Sironko Woman seat in 2001—good enough the new-district craze had caught on.

She then took a tour through the education ministry and ended up at the doorstep of the presidency—as the minister in charge. It is a position she’s held ever since she made it through the 2006 elections—where she literally had to shoot her way to victory. With a little-known accountant taking her on the FDC ticket, it took deploying security agencies and literally stuffing ballot boxes—with skirmishes at Sironko Town Council—for her to score victory.

Compare that with Nandala Mafabi. Largely unknown before 2000; he leaves a well-paying job in the World Bank and makes it on the opposition ticket as MP for Budadiri West in 2001. The early days see him named in a few corruption scandals (the Mukwano case) but he later makes a sterling performance as chairman of the House’s National Economy committee.

He then shoots to prominence as chairman of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee; he becomes the face of Parliament’s fight against corruption; grilling district and government officials accused of plunder by the Auditor General. Nandala by no mistake is a great accountant. He has a laser-precision of seeing through documents—especially when they are about accountability. 

Such are the CVs of these two big politicians who have finally chosen to lock horns—with different motives. It is obvious that President Museveni wants Nandala out of the House. He’s helped expose the murk in the regime—many times just falling short of implicating the Presidency—like in the CHOGM theft scandal. Like Museveni did with Maj. Kazoora, Hon. Sabiiti and Augustine Ruzindana in 2006; Nandala is a marked man for 2011. That the President has taken time to go to Budadiri West and alert the peasants there about his dislike for Nandala is no surprise.

But whereas Janet Museveni might have found it easy to unseat Ruzindana in Ruhaama, Wabudeya may not just have it smooth in Budadiri. Nandala in Mbale is popularly referred to as “the king of the Bamasaaba”. It is a title won very hard. He fought tooth-and-nail to take over management of Bugisu Cooperative Union—the one-time pride of Mbale. Despite stiff opposition from the government, which at one point tried to change the law to bar Nandala from contesting, he went ahead and swept the poll. Today, barely a year after he assumed that mantle, the union is registering billions in profit, up from the heavily-indebted apparatus it had become.

For this single sole reason, Nandala has become a messiah of sorts. The small-bodied man, who walks with a slight stoop and always has his sleeves rolled up (Obama style), has taken Mbale by the storm. At no previous point in Bugisu’s history (maybe with exception of Masette Kuya and Wapa at some point), have Bagisu rallied so concretely behind a politician—let alone one in the opposition. He sponsors over 200 university students from his constituency, giving them part of their tuition. His numerous petrol stations are a source of employment for many.
That exactly is the difference between Nandala and Wabudeya. As minister—and knowing how politics has come to be defined in this country—many Bagisu though Wabudeya’s positioning would enable them access jobs or related benefits. How mistaken they were! Either out of principle or stinginess, this has not happened much. When Wabudeya was education minister, Bugisu was among the worst-performing regions in national exams. She watched as the only giant school, Nabumali, slid to anarchy. Even when she was in health, the state of hospitals never changed—instead facilities like Bududa Hospital continued to become fossilized. I met a frustrated student who thought by being from Mbale, she had a good shot at a government scholarship to study abroad—because Wabudeya was minister. I later learnt that many young Bagisu had suffered similar fate. Not even the presence of Ms Gabona, another daughter of the soil as head of the scholarships board in the ministry could help. And yet the case was different for people from another region!

A few weeks ago, I made an appointment with someone who was to become a new friend. It turned out it was Wabudeya’s daughter—fresh from school. She was asking if I could help her get a job—and wondering why—she told me her mum could never peddle influence to get her an appointment. Now, this can either be a plus or minus depending on where one stands. Principle or stinginess?

That said, it is clear Nandala is the more popular—but Wabudeya has the state machinery. The story is that Nandala was actually intending to run for the Mbale Municipality seat after Wilfred Kajeke threw in the towel. When news made the rounds that Wabudeya was eyeing his home turf, he cancelled the idea, instead opting to have the face-off.

But also with the news that Principal Private Secretary to President Museveni Amelia Kyambadde is jumping into elective politics--the done deal is that she will take the Presidency Minister slot--if she goes through. This makes it even more important for Wabudeya to snatch the Budadiri Seat; but if she fails--I see her political career plummeting from then on. With such high stakes, this makes a real dream contest!