More than any other year, 2004 saw the arts blossom in Uganda. Music was one of the strongest vehicles of change in a country that is grappling for inclusion in the East African integration, writes STEVEN TENDO.
The second Pearl of Africa Music Awards ceremony was perhaps the greatest achievement as it proved detractors wrong. The awards were held amid glitz and fanfare that were far greater than the previous year, thanks to Isaac Mulindwa, the Chairman of the organising committee whose spirit was not dampened by the prophets of doom. Blu*3, the Coca Cola Pop Star trio from Uganda, recorded an eleven-track album with sizzlers like Don’t Say and Fly Away. The Obsessions celebrated their fifth anniversary with an album, One AAT (One At A Time) with hits like Nod Ya Head and Housegirl.
The Miss Uganda beauty pageant was as big as expected. Organised by Miss Uganda Ltd of Sylvia Awori, it rolled on to a victorious climax with Barbara Kimbugwe being crowned Miss Uganda. The pageant, whose theme was “Beauty With a Purpose”, was the fourth consecutive success for Awori. Sudhir Ruparellia, the main sponsor of the Miss Uganda franchise, said he has stayed on even when other sponsors jumped off the ship because he wants to give women a “chance to shine”.
Uganda’s three top fashion houses, House of Kaine, Arapapa, and Zipper, put in a strong showing with each staging a ceremony celebrating womanhood or African style. For years, Sylvia Awori had created designs to shock. This time round though, at the launch of her new line, Sylvie Awori, the shock element was conspicuously absent. Arapapa, which means butterfly, has grown on the Ugandan fashion aficionados in leaps and bounds. At first it was seen as a venture that would fall on its face since Santa Anzo, the proprietor of Arapapa Consultancy, was one of Awori’s girls. When she broke away, doomsayers gave her only a few months. In 2004, Arapapa celebrated yet another Fashion Week and the guest of honour was none other than Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. House of Kaine belongs to Natasha Kainembabazi Museveni, President Museveni’s first daughter. This fact appears to work against the organisation that is seen as catering to special people. Even Kainembabazi drums it into the public’s mind that her designs are for the everyday woman and they are very affordable, there will always be that feeling that House of Kaine is in another league. The fashion sector came under some criticism when the President, at the Arapapa event, told Ugandan designers to make ‘African’ works and stop aping Western ideals. The invitation of South African godfather of fashion, Clive Rundle, to the Uganda International Fashion Week did not make matters any better.
Though not known for being a great filmmaking nation, Uganda achieved the biggest badge when she hosted the first Amakula Kampala International Film Festival. It mainly showcased documentaries but it was a triumph for the country. Stephen Nyeko’s documentary, Full of Energy, was showcased at Zanzibar International Film Festival in Tanzania where it won a Golden Dhow as Best East African Production. A sensitisation vehicle funded by Uganda’s Ministry of Energy, Full of Energy was also screened at the 7th African Cine Week in Nairobi, Kenya. Amakula Kampala, organised by Alice Smits and Lee Ellickson, showed Ugandans something they had been blind to for a very long time; talented filmmakers exist in Uganda. Acclaimed filmmaker, Mira Nair, established Maisha, a project to develop filmmaking in East Africa and South East Asia. It is based in Kampala.
This was a year of reflection on Frequency Modulation broadcasting as Uganda marked a decade of media pluralism. Dr Nsaba Buturo, the information minister, warned that any radio that was deemed to be “abusing the president” could be shut down. The first private broadcaster was Radio Sanyu (now Sanyu FM 2000) that was followed closely by its biggest rival at the time, Patrick Quarco’s Capital Radio. By 2004, more than 100 radio licenses had been issued while 45 radio stations were in business.
Musician Elly Wamala, the 2003 winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Pearl of Africa Music Awards, died.