By Patricia Opio
It has been said over and over again how Uganda is the Pearl of Africa. It is embedded in our tourism slogans and honestly, I cannot remember a time where I have not heard Uganda called that. Sometimes we hear things and leave it at that, not being deliberate to find out where they came from or if they are really true.
As a Ugandan, my country being called the Pearl of Africa made me proud, and to find out that Winston Churchill, yes that Winston Churchill in his travel memoir, “My African Journey” named Uganda that in 1908 was even more amazing.
“For magnificence, for variety of form and color, for profusion of brilliant life-bird, insect, reptile, beast-for vast scale-Uganda is truly “the Pearl of Africa.” He goes on to say, “The Kingdom of Uganda is a fairy tale. The scenery is different, the climate is different and most of all, the people are different from anywhere else to be seen in the whole range of Africa…..what message I bring back…concentrate on Uganda.”
It’s uncanny that one hundred and ten years later in 2018, a Marvel movie, Black Panther that has defined African pride and creativity was released. It has been called a gorgeous, groundbreaking celebration of black culture which points to a future where it could be the future. Vox.com goes on to say that it acknowledges and celebrates everything from traditional African society to the preservation of identity, all within the plush confines of the fictional African nation of Wakanda.
It should be noted that some scenes in Black Panther were shot in Uganda and it gets even more interesting when you learn that in our neighboring country, Kenya, Uganda is called Waganda due to the Swahili language. So I am going out on a limb and say with Winston Churchill’s description of Uganda and Black Panther, is it possible that Uganda is the 21st Century Wakanda?
But truly what does this all mean? And what significance is it to a girl passionate about her country and the creative economy? The wonder and magnificence of Uganda does not lie in just the climate or scenery though I must say it is awesome. It’s the people. The wonderful creative Bana Uganda.
We are creative people, sometimes probably not in a constructive way but hey, we are creative. Hahaha! We were recently ranked the most entrepreneurial country in the world by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. Furthermore, our capital city, Kampala has been said to be the party capital of Africa. I plead the fifth. Hahaha!
This season has not been easy the world over due to COVID-19 and its effects like lockdown and curfew but I must say I have seen the creativity of my people and I am so blessed to have met some of them. It’s been a winding story but this post is an ode to the creativity of abaana ba Uganda. As I said, I am passionate about the creative economy so it is with pleasure that I introduce you to four entities under the heritage, arts, media, and functional creations industries.
Heritage: Pearl Rhythm Foundation is a Ugandan grassroots music and creative community that exists to strengthen an independent music scene in Uganda. It was started by Jude Mugerwa, Susan Kerunen, Myko Ouma, Ambrose Mugume, and Rose Kerunen. It has discovered, mentored, and introduced new artists through its stagecoach program. These artists include Afrie, Haka Mukiga, and Giovanni Kiyingi to mention a few. This year they launched their first-ever virtual conference and showcase in July which you can catch up on YouTube-Pearl Rhythm Festival.
Arts: Afrie is an award-winning Ugandan Afro-Fusion musician and entertainer. She is a pianist, singer, and songwriter. Her music is based on themes of love, fire, and freedom. Her vision is a united Africa that works together for its development. If you have never seen the passion for one’s work, you need to meet Afrie. I have watched her grow in her musical journey and I`m inspired. I am glad to say that passion with hard work can indeed take you places. Her new single Let her know video is simply smashing so run over to YouTube and check out Afriedom.
Media: Ruth Humura
A passionate digital storyteller who has used blogs and podcasts to pass on her love for beauty and lifestyle with a Ugandan twang. She also takes us on her travels through Uganda so if you want to see the beauty of Uganda through the eyes of a beauty blogger, you know where to go. You can check her out on zeehumura.wordpress.com and anchor.fm/humura-ruth.
Functional creations: Josephine Kyomuhendo aka Jose Hendo, a fashion designer is using barkcloth made in Uganda which has been listed as a UNESCO Intangible cultural heritage in her design process. She is passionate about eco-sustainability at all levels. Barkcloth is harvested from the mutuba tree and Jose has made it her mission to promote and look after the mutuba tree. She launched the one million mutuba tree campaign with the desire to plant one million mutuba trees. This campaign is also in line with the Back to Roots that aims to promote the use of bark cloth globally, anchored in the ethos of the sustainable development goals as she told observer.ug.
These amazing people are using their passions not only to impact themselves but the world at large. But I know you are probably asking, what in heaven’s name are the creative industries? These are a range of economic activities that are concerned with the generation or exploitation of knowledge and information and these four people/entities have managed to turn their knowledge and passions into profit. They have shown the possibilities that are out there for everyone if we just had faith and tried.
This is exactly what Uganda is all about. Possibilities! As we celebrate the 58th independence of the Republic of Uganda, all this is what I am reminiscing about. The people of Uganda. The creative people of Uganda who are resilient and take everything in stride and in some way come out of it better than before. Yes, with tears here and there but I tell you, we come out of it with laughter and a reason to celebrate. So come on over and celebrate because like Oprah says, `The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.’’
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!
Patricia Opio is a multi-passionate creative purposepreneur, designer and storyteller.
Her mission is to inspire and empower women,creatives and brands to embrace their stories to unlock their creative potential to design authentic and purpose-driven digital brands.
She is the Founder and Creative Director of This is Me!,a digital platform that takes on the role of bringing her mission to life. She loves color and all things creative!