We can exclusively reveal that the top executive of the Uganda Theatre practitioners has started on the struggle to reclaim the National Theatre from the Uganda National Cultural Center. The struggle is led by theatre veterans Jack Kinobe Sserunkuuma and Phillip Luswata Kafuluma, the Investigator authoritative report.
The two and their soldiers are vowing to do everything in their power to bring the mismanagement at the prized National theatre to the attention of each and every office of authority in Uganda. “We are not going to rest until the ‘mis-managers’ masquerading as leaders are uprooted at the National Theatre. We can’t simply stomach what is going on at Dewinton Road currently. What shall we tell our children? That we slumbered on as National Theatre was decaying? We say no”, funnyman Luswata vowed without necessarily acting this time round.
The journey to freedom:
The artistes have kicked off the struggle by petitioning the Parliamentary Committee on Gender, Labor and Social development. The artistes have great faith in parliament to do good. This, after the chairperson of Parliamentary Committee on Gender, Labor and Social Development, Hon. Flavia Kabahenda blocked the suspected looting of a whopping UGX30Bn, which the Uganda National Cultural Center had disguised as funds to establish regional studios for artists!
The team argue that the theatre arts sector in Uganda has a potential to employ over one hundred thousand people, but the same remains the least exploited. They strongly claim that Uganda National Cultural Centre abandoned its cardinal role of Providing and establishing Theatres and Cultural Centers in the country, encouraging and developing cultural and artistic activities, providing a home to societies groups and, organizations in art, culture and entertainment.
And instead, they have maintained grabbing and grumbling to assume roles of Uganda National Theatre and film Network. It is evident that the current management’s interest and expertise only lies in `managing` the National Theater building, i.e., collecting rent and parking fees, but NOT to promote the arts and This has led into failure to mold into a productive industry, the Arts in Uganda.
The Petition in full:
Theatre Practitioners` Petition and Workplan for the year 2021- 2025
Artists today are joining other Groups in Uganda who have come out to demand for “independence and self-governance” from other government departments and individuals. The Arts have been employed as a tool, to help the young people understand what they are, in relation to the communities where they stay, the responsibilities they carry still within and out of their community settings and the respect to humanity.
Through different forms of Arts, young people have been educated and as such start looking at life consciously and to appreciate what life has made of them. They are prepared to take over as responsible leaders of tomorrow. Top most though, Arts have been used to ease tension and to bring smiles to people in communities.
Performing Arts here in Africa for example, are just a part of a person. They take a sizable percentage of our lives as we employ them to achieve various life objectives. In traditional Africa, we have used arts in bringing up our young, guiding the grownups and putting the elderly in their rightful positions. We have mainly employed performing arts as we execute our traditional ceremonial events, which events are responsible in marking our identities and membership of communities in larger Africa.
Even in modern Africa, we have employed the same performing arts in religious praises, in education, in informing, in sensitization, mobilization and entertainment. The Arts in general, are a powerful tool for effective communication, education, mobilization, sensitization and behavior change on top of creating employment.
Young people must be helped to understand and embrace The Arts as one of the viable employment sources in Uganda. It should all start with the government making priority and provisions for investment in the Arts sector as it has done with other sectors, such as industrial development, agriculture, health etc. In the sixties, the colonial administration left in place an infrastructure for the development of the Arts in Uganda. There were recreational community centers in almost all townships throughout the country.
These provided venues for Arts` skill development and exhibition. But the successive governments have played a blind eye and reduced the Arts to nothing despite constant reminders from stakeholders. After the expulsion of the Europeans and Asians by Idi Amin in 1970s, [the development] saw a decade of rapid decline in the cinema industry. The other arts like drama staggered but survived simply because there were community recreational centers where drama shows could be staged.
Drama enjoyed monopoly and relatively grew, since there was no competition from cinema industry. In the 1980s, the Performing Arts industry boomed with drama reaching its peak as many groups and clubs had shot up. In Kampala alone, there were about 300 registered groups. This created a big demand for performance venues. Privately owned theatres sprung up as a backup to The National Theatre and to accommodate this rising demand.
Regretfully however, the return of the Asians after 1986 saw many of these performance venues in form of theatres, where the dramatists used to stage their plays, closed! To mention but a few; Biwologoma on Ben Kiwanuka Street was repossessed by the Indian community back into a temple. Bahomex Theatreon William Street was demolished to give way for a car parking yard. Pride Theatre on Namirembe road was sold off and turned into a Pentecostal church.
Nile Theatre at Nakivubo was turned into a school for adult education
Farmers’ Hall at Kalerwe was demolished. Riverside Theatre behind Kisekka Market was also sold off and turned into a nursery school. Hollywood Theatre at Katwe is no longer functional. Bristol hall at Nateete is now a discotheque. Happyland Theatre at Kibuye is now Imbecap discotheque/club. Awuleria Hall at Namasuba is now a kindergarten and, Namulondo Theatre in Bweyogerere, was turned into residential apartments.
Other halls in Kireka, Luzira, Kawempe and all other places were affected by the rush to selling of property on prime lands. The only theatres in Kampala now are Bat Valley on Bombo Road, Theatre Labonita on Clive Road near Christ the King Church and The National Theatre. Even those in other towns in Uganda have followed suit and have been turned into places of worship, particularly the Christian born-again faiths. The lack of performance venues has seen a sharp decline in the Performing Arts from the early 1990s to date.
In the year 2008, Ugandan artists through Link Afrika Cultural Exchange Programme, a not-for profit advocacy for promotion of Arts Agency, spearheaded the revitalizing of arts at the Uganda National Theatre. This came up at the helm of sharp decline in the promotion of arts on part of the Uganda National Cultural Centre – UNCC, which has continuously played a killing role and takeover of The Uganda National Theatre. Different avenues have been used to remind the Board of Trustees and Management of the roles of UNCC and those of Uganda National Theatre, in vain.
Whereas Uganda National Cultural Centre is mandated to oversee all cultural institutions in Uganda, including the Uganda National Theatre; [The latter] is mandated with promoting the Arts in Uganda. The Board of Trustees and Management of UNCC on the other hand have for a long period of time, concentrated on what looks like a deliberate move to derail the Uganda National Theatre from the path of developing the Arts in Uganda to comfortably turning the premises into a wedding meetings’ centre, land brokers and property letting agency.
As you may be aware, the artistes petitioned the relevant authorities including the President of Uganda, The Hon. Prime Minister, The Speaker of Parliament and The Inspector General of Government to intervene. Following the petition, the office of the IGG unearthed a lot of decay in the management of the UNCC and corruption related charges were preferred against the Director Mr. Joseph Walugembe in the anti-corruption court and he was interdicted.
We requested the Board of Trustees to bring in new management team and indeed, various positions were advertised. After the interdiction of Joseph Walugembe and his team, we celebrated receiving a new management team led by Mr. Francis Peter Ojede. Artists, well-wishers and other stake holders offered their time, skill and expertise under the new management to embark on a road map to revitalizing and restoring the lost glory of the Uganda National Theatre.
We held different meetings with the outgoing Board of Trustees and the current management but we have come to a point where we think and conclude that enough is enough. The National Theatre has to be reclaimed and managed by artists themselves. Close interactions with the current Management of UNCC has proved that the people in these positions are not only incompetent but also very ignorant of the roles and duties of the UNCC and those of the Uganda National Theatre.
The management of UNCC has ignored what they are mandated to do and resorted to managing the National Theatre, NOT as an institution but as a building structure, and particularly concentrating on collecting parking fees and letting out space to tenants. As artists, we have been patient enough to give the Board of Trustees and management of UNCC an opportunity to put right all that they messed up and put the Uganda National Theatre back on track.
The Artists` Commitment:
Today, we highlight on the need to create new initiatives to showcase Uganda’s artistic and technical talent in the field of performing Arts (Theatre) and film in advancement of Ugandan culture and as a tool for mobilization, sensitization and education for sustainable community-based development initiatives. We are creating an opportunity for the varied skills and talents among the performing artists to be brought together in such a way as to offer them development and infrastructural upgrade of benefit to the industry as a whole.
It is our individual and collective commitment today, to devise and concretize initiatives towards an immediate reclaim, takeover, promotion and popularize the Uganda National Theatre as an institution for artistic development of The Performing Arts and film in Uganda.
We therefore demand for revitalization of the Arts and consideration of the immediate efforts that have been made priority for the Performing Arts and Film in Uganda, be remolded to becoming one of the main sources of employment for young people in Uganda.
1: RECREATING THE NATIONAL THEATRE AS AN INSTITUTION:
The National Theatre has always been mistaken to be only the building at Plot 2,4,6 along Dewinton road in Kampala, yet the building is supposed to be the headquarters of the Theatre and Film Network in Uganda. As we build the work plan for 2021-25, we are committed to recreating the National Theatre as an institution for performing arts and Film in Uganda.
The institution shall be an operational Performing Arts structure that runs from National level and through Regional, District to Sub-County levels. The Performing Arts and Film Regions shall be drawn based on language i.e, Buganda, Busoga, Samia/Bugwe, Japadhola, Bugisu, Sebei, Ateso, Karimojong, Lango, Acholi, Alur, Madi, Lugbara, Kakwa, Bunyoro, Ankole, Toro, Bakonjo/Bamba, Bakiga and Bafumbira.
- Mr. Jacko David Waluluka is another unique entertainment and general investigative news writer, a field he has diligently covered for over fifteen years. He’s also the Chief Administrator at The Investigator. He can easily be reached via [email protected]
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