Monthly Archives: June 2013

Only two Ugandan films at ZIFF 2013


Uganda will have a paltry representation of only two movies at the 16th edition of the annual Zanzibar International Film Festival. The cinema showcase, also known as the Festival of Dhow Countries, takes place on the idyllic Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar from June 29 to July 7, 2013. Haunted Souls (32mins) and The Ugandan (84mins) are the two showpieces from the Pearl of Africa. Haunted Souls will screen as part of the elite Ousmane Sembene showcase at the Grand Palace Hotel on Thursday July 4 at 11.30am. The film is set in post-conflict Northern Uganda in which a former child soldier and captive wife abducted at an early age by LRA rebels tries to rebuild her life. The Ugandan is about the clash of Indian and Ugandan cultures set against the backdrop of a returning Indian family wishing to repossess the house they left after Idi Amin gave them marching orders in 1972. It will show on Saturday July 6 at Maru Maru Hotel at 11am. Haunted Souls was written by top Ugandan screen/ stage actress Rehema Nanfuka and directed by Godwin Otwoma and has been selected as part of the Short Film segment at the 34th Durban International Film Festival. The Ugandan was directed by Patrick Sekyaya, one of the country’s most prolific young filmmakers. It also showed at Fespaco, Africa’s premier film festival in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso earlier this year.


Neighboring Kenya on the other hand has a record six listings including three full-length feature films. They are Nairobi Half Life (95mins), Ni Sisi (92mins) and Leo (95mins). The others are Calling Home (6mins), Fluorescent Sin (9mins) and Yellow Fever (7mins). Kenya’s stronger presence at Ziff is testament to the proactive approach the country has taken to appreciate the role of film as a driver of the Creative Economy, something that is largely ignored in Uganda. Kenya’s new President Uhuru Kenyatta gave his country’s audio visual industry a ringing endorsement by shooting a promotional video used in pitches at the recent Cannes Film Festival in France. Coupled with promoting Kenya as a top cinematic destination much like Morocco and lately Namibia, our easterly neighbors also have the requisite infrastructure in place by way of a film commission and industry guilds.

The principal screening venues at Ziff 2013 are The Zanzibar Grand Palace and Marumaru Hotels alongside the Wavuvi Restaurant, which will only screen Swahili films. Tanzania which is a union of the Tanganyika mainland and Zanzibar islands of Unguja and Pemba has built its own homegrown cinematic profile by way of its Bongo movies genre. The Old Fort Amphitheatre will offer twilight screenings starting at 7pm every evening showcasing two feature films before the cinematic party proceeds to Mambo Club (also inside the Old Fort) for three hours of music and dancing. There will also be workshops at the Old Dispensary and the Old Customs House and the good thing about Ziff is that most activity happens within walking distance with locals at the ready to offer directions to the venues. The exotic aquatic cuisine fresh from the ocean adds to the experience and the Forodhani Park turns into an open-air restaurant in which visiting and indigenous cine-philes alike gather to eat fresh, cheap and very tasty food. Those with a mind to network have the ZUKU Lounge at Maru Maru Hotel as a platform for raising film business potentials every evening from 5 to 7pm.

See complete festival programme here;



So long a time it will be, Pere; where does your demise leave us?

Perfect tribute!

The Frying Pun

The first time I was faced with death was when a paternal uncle and his family of seven perished in a boat accident. The remains brought home were so bloated they created fear. I was just a child then, but I never thought I would ever face a corpse again in my life. Funerals, burials, requiems… I dreaded all these things. But in early 2000, I attended the first vigil in my life. A sportswoman had passed on and the wake was teeming with people, including a weirdo I later learnt never missed a wake in Kakira. On this particular night, he was drunk—as usual—and he made it a point to interrupt every nice thing said about the deceased except her sports talent. He would jump up and rave: Speak the truth. That girl got a scholarship to Kibuli SS but spent all her time in clubs in Kabalagala… She…

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African Creative Economy Conference 2013 registration opens


Maria Kiwanuka, Uganda’s Minister of Finance should have known better than to ignore the creative economy during the reading of the 2013/2014 Budget. No wonder it sent most of the politicians present to sleep. And yet the power of the creative economy as a contributor to GDP and an alleviator of unemployment and poverty can’t be over emphasized.

Fiscal savvy countries elsewhere now view culture as having an important part to play in tackling some the world’s biggest challenges of unemployment and poverty. South Africa’s Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile recently revealed at a United Nations (UN) debate that the country’s film industry contributed R3.5bn (approx. UGX1trillion) to its GDP (gross domestic product). He further revealed that the cinematic sector employs 25,000 people according to research conducted by the country’s NFVF (National Film and Video Foundation). He also said that the country’s books sector is estimated to bring in R5bn (approx. UGX1.3trillion) further emphasising South Africa’s implementation of its Msanzi Golden Economy Strategy. The annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival alone brings in R500m (approx. UGX130bn) into the City of Cape Town and that’s from hotels to ticket sales and more.

Such discourse is what you will find at the annual African Creative Economy Conference (ACEC), that’s if only tax-obsessed government officials care to attend. This year’s conference takes place in Cape Town in South Africa from October 6-10, 2013. It will put the spotlight on the continent’s creative industries, not just as economic drivers but will also highlight the potential contribution of the Creative Industries to the eradication of poverty, democracy and human rights. The conference is geared for creative practitioners, government bodies and policy makers, academics, researchers, entrepreneurs, journalists and culture vultures.

“The ACEC is a key opportunity to interact with leading players in the field, and to engage with critical challenges and innovative solutions that are part of the process of growing the outputs and efficacy of the creative sector in Africa. A key end goal is to facilitate the production and distribution of African creative goods and services, within the continent and globally”, according to Korkor Amarteifio, Chairperson: Arterial Network.

The inaugural event was held in Nairobi in 2011 and then in Dakar in 2012. The African Creative Economy conference rotates through different regions in Africa and this year’s Cape Town venue is held against the backdrop of that city’s global spotlight as World Design Capital 2014. Keynote addresses and discussions will take place in the 108-year-old City Hall, from whose balcony Nelson Mandela made his first public speech to crowds gathered in the Grand Parade hours after being released from prison in 1990. The keynote addresses and debates are expected to broadly cover the following subjects;

*The state of the African economy in a global context,

*Examining and re-defining the creative industries under African conditions

*Discussing their relevance to African economic, social and political developments

*Sharing up-to-date research on the creative sectors throughout Africa

*Exploring the creative industries within the broader political and economic context of Africa, the global south and north-south relations

*Key markets for African creative goods and services and practical suggestions on the way forward.

The African Creative Economy Conference is a project of the Arterial Network, a dynamic, continent-wide grouping of non-government organisations, creative industry companies, festivals and individual artists engaged in the African creative sector.  Established at a convention on Goree Island, Senegal, in 2007, Arterial Network is now the largest intercultural network on the continent, with official national chapters in 40 African countries.

The implementing partner for the ACEC 2013 is the Cape Craft and Design Institute (CCDI).  For many years, the Institute has assisted people to build profitable enterprises, with marketable products for global markets.  Among Institutions of its kind, the Cape Craft and Design Institute has an enviable reputation for best practice. The third African Creative Economy Conference promises to be a conference with a difference in which presentations and discussions will be complemented by the arts in practice.  As delegates debate and share information and research, an exciting parallel programme of public events will showcase the boundless creativity of the African continent.  Programme offerings will include, but are not limited to, African film, theatre, literature, music, fashion, food, craft and much more – many of these activities will take place in the dynamic innovation district in the eastern part of the city, known as The Fringe.

Registration for African delegates will cost R 1,947 (approx. UGX500, 000) for early bird confirmation before June 30, 2013 while registration after that will cost R 2,239 (approx. UGX580, 000) per delegate from Africa. The conference fees cater for daily conference packs, mid-morning tea/coffee & snacks, afternoon tea/coffee & snacks, light lunch, free wireless Internet access and access to all conference sessions. Delegates will have to cater for their own travel and accommodation.


Elemotho smoulders with acoustic set

Elemotho performs with his five-piece band in Kampala

Elemotho performs with his four-piece band in Kampala

For his second Kampala outing, Elemotho had a stripped down offering of a predominantly acoustic set. It was far from the hyper-do he delivered at Bayimba 2009. Not that the Jazzville concert was an entirely sedate affair. It is just that a repertoire devoid of a drummer and keyboardist; integral instruments in Elemotho’s work, would mostly appeal to culture vultures who have had an introduction by say MTV’s Unplugged sessions or TV5 Monde’s acoustic sessions.

So for the bulk of Kampala’s wannabe crowd itching for an entertainment freebie, the concert turned out to be a mostly listening party experience at which skinny-jean wearing glamour boys engaged in mindless banter. Perhaps they were discussing strategies on how to hook up mzungu cougars; “white visa” they call it in local parlance. Equally obnoxious were trophy wenches walking on the arm of some White male pensioners. Aberrations whose lack of a fine musical palate showed when they walked out of the venue after Elemotho announced he was playing his last song.

Meanwhile, the purists were in musical bliss. This was the posse that rose up on impulse and raced to the stage to dance along to the enchanting sounds of the musical crown prince of the Kalahari. The Saturday June 1, 2013 concert was part of a continent-wide tour, one of the perks of Elemotho’s winning the RFI/ France 24 Discoveries Award for 2012 alongside a €10,000 cash prize. If you recall, our own Maurice Kirya became the first Anglophone act to win the same accolade in 2010.

The attendant tour offers the award-winning artiste the best introduction to new audiences, our pretentious white collar Kampala corporates included. Even with the intermittent sound glitches- Elemotho often had to intercut some performances with “give me more of this monitor, microphone” appeals to the soundman- the band gave 101%, never mind that they had jetted in the night before and had a pre-dawn flight to catch the following day. The Kampala gig was the 25th stop in a four-month marathon tour.

There was Elemotho’s dual talent of voice and guitar-fingering to take away from the experience. His impromptu yodelling during song interludes was just divine. Back-up vocalist Ermelinda Thataone enchanted with her array of shakers including a thin cylindrical wooden instrument she’d tilt to create a rattling sound. Bassist Erwin Amakhoe Gaweseb won his own shoulder pips of the night plucking those thick wiry strings if anything to prove that he is of fine musical extraction. He is from Congo Brazzaville, probably from the same pedigree of Congo River music maestros. The man on the congas ably made up for the lack of a drummer; the latter was not missed that much by the way. And flautist Polina Loubmina my-oh-my! What divinity to interpreting Elemotho’s music in a whole new way by way of that brass music instrument.

The lyrics though strange offered had sprinklings of English enough for us to sing about the “politics of the belly”, a spoof on the minority “haves” who deprive the majority “have-nots” of the national cake. This was one 90-minute set of Kalahari-flavoured jazz blues, Afro pop/reggae fusion and exotic African rhythms. Honestly, it should have benefitted from less pretentious revellers and strict admission to music purists!

Kampala1ne managed to grab Elemotho backstage while he had his dinner to offer more insights into his distinct brand of award-winning music.

What has this tour taught you about Africa?

We have been on the road for three months and we are catching a 4am flight to Lesotho tomorrow (Sunday). We have 30 concerts in total and for me this is more exciting than the prize money that comes with winning the RFI/ France 24 Discoveries Award. We live on an amazing continent, so much to see despite the numerous travel restrictions. Of course there’s the distribution deal with the UK-based Arc Music Productions to be grateful for. My three albums will be availed to a global audience in a hassle-free way.

Don’t you feel a “Discovery” award is a little condescending? It sort of paints the picture that you were “unknown” up until you were “discovered”… 

I choose to see it differently in terms of the doors it opens for you as an artiste. The award gave us access on Canal Plus, which is a tough TV outlet to penetrate. Then there is travelling to Africa in a promo tour to the point of freaking out but it is “all good”. I got more than what I wanted.

Elemotho hangs out with Ugandan songster backstage

Elemotho hangs out with Ugandan songster Suzan Anique backstage

Your set was minimalistic compared to your previous concert here in June 2009 at the Bayimba International Festival of the Arts. Did you ever worry that it would affect how audiences responded to a mostly acoustic delivery?  

True, the set this time was minimalistic and I do miss the full band once in a while. But this touring set has made me come to enjoy the spaces in the music especially the flute, which has this thing about calming down the sound. Because when you have everything going full throttle, you tend to lose the lyrics. And this touring set represents the philosophy around the latest album Ke Nako (It’s Time); its feeling and I should say it is working amazingly.

Do you ever feel compelled to be your country’s de facto country ambassador?

There are times I’m made to feel like I am the musician of the century back home. But I have big love for my country and do not mind carrying the flag for my country. I need to emphasise that I am not just a “traditional” musician. I am also a musician of the iPad generation that is out to conquer Europe, Asia, Australia and the rest of the World. 

25 countries, 30 cities, single night stays… How have you adapted to living out of a suitcase?

I was in boarding school from a very early age and that got me ready for a life of being away from home. It had me preparing fully for this sort of thing like the multi-country tour we have been on. It is part of every musician’s journey.