By Asuman Ssali
Published May 18, 2007
A workshop aimed at equipping writers and journalists with critical skills in arts and cultural issues has just ended in Kampala, Uganda. Twenty-one print, television, radio and online writers attended the 13-day workshop that ended on May 13, 2007 with a public presentation of their work, a prerequisite to their being issued with participation certificates. ASUMAN SSALI, a radio journalist who attended the event, reports.
Facilitated by Mbye Cham of the USA and Ogova Ondego of Kenya, the aim of the event was to help uplift the standards of journalism in covering cultural issues.
The first three days, conducted by Cham, a professor of African studies at Howard University, covered the history of African cinema. Cham said African filmmaking co-exists and interacts with other forms of creative practices on the level of subject matter. He also cited several cinema-related institutionsâ€”Pan African Federation of Filmmakers, Pan African Festival of Film and Television of Ouagadougouâ€”that have emerged in Africa, pinpointed major challenges facing African cinema in the new millennium, and ended with a discussion on production, exhibition and distribution.
Ondego, an arts and culture critic and publisher of ArtMatters.Info in Nairobi, then took up the challenge for the remaining 10 days. Besides covering the hands-on work of journalists, Ondego also handled areas such as contextual and formal analysis of art, architecture, music, dance, film, literature, and lifestyle.
Urging participating journalists to write regularly on arts and culture in order to perfect their skills, Ondego requested Amakula directors to invite more journalists from the mainstream media to benefit from what he termed invaluable experience.
Participating journalists said the workshop was both educative and provided a platform for interaction among Ugandans and people from Kenya, Tanzania and elsewhere to create international understanding.
The workshop was fantastic, they said, as they interacted with professionals, directors, producers, and facilitators like Cham and Ondego who exchanged their wealth of experience with them.
However, there was some weakness in participation, especially among women who did not turn up regularly save for the first two days. Therefore they wasted opportunities for those who would have wanted to participate full time. Only one woman sat through the workshop to the end.
Finally, the 21 journalists from Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria and Kenya extended their thanks to the administration of Amakula Kampala International Film Festival for giving them the opportunity to learn.
They not only attended the workshop but also watched and critiqued films and live performances, interviewed festival-goers, and debated with the public on why journalists are said to be highly opinionated, full of themselves and appear to have arrogated to themselves the role of being â€˜Eyes and Earsâ€™ of society, prodding and prying for a living.
And perhaps the highlight of the training was the live debate that was generated by the presentation of the journalists on 4th Amakula Kampala International Film Festival and its programmes that included music and story-telling, art exhibition, film screening, workshops and seminars, and film translation by Video Jockeys.
While some presenters were told off by the public for either dwelling on fiction or not covering their subject adequately, others received appreciative applause for their thoroughness.
This was the second time that East African Film Critics Workshop had taken place at Amakula, the first having been held in 2005 by Ondego with the aim of empowering journalists on how to write and critique the arts in general and films in particular.
Ondego, founding director of the Nairobi-based Lola Kenya Screen audiovisual media festival, skills-development programme and marketing platform for children and youth in eastern Africa, also sat on the three-person jury of the 3rd Golden Impala Award.