A city of artists

Festivals, as I mentioned in a previous blog, are close to my heart: through the fact that they allow a meeting of like-minded souls and trusting open connections; an expansion of enjoying life itself; through celebration of all that is on offer, which is generally a plethora of magic, music and jollities.

I adore them and so you can imagine my delight that all of a sudden I seem to be swept up in a series of different festival events occurring over on this side of the globe.

A lovely Ugandan friend of mine, (that I met at Nyege Nyege), had told me of the upcoming Bayimba festival as we headed back to Kampala after dancing the weekend away. It was to be hosted at Kampala’s National Theatre, and he insisted that not only would I love it but that I must be there! And of course that was true.

I had to work late on the Friday evening which meant I arrived into town a little later than hoped for.  However, from the moment I arrived and had my latest festival wristband applied, my inner excitement bubbled once more. My friend greeted me and off we went: to explore, to dance, to watch, to listen, to enjoy.

As we moved around, I was enthused by the sounds that I could hear and I was delighted to once again learn of artists new to me, loved by Ugandans. I got introduced to the “Body of Brian”, one of the artists that I had so enjoyed listening to at the last festival, and I met many many other artists, musicians and dancers too.

Sadly the festival was not a residential one, so I journeyed home later that night, but I woke in eager anticipation the next day in order to return once more to the throngs of action. When I got there,  I opted for some solo exploration first, knowing that my friends were also busy with rehearshals and preparation, as they were performing later that day. This gave me the chance also to play with the colours of the festival, through trying on different attire, observing different pieces of art, and generally just chatting away to all those I came across.

And of course the day could not start well if it wasn’t to be met with the traditional Ugandan breakfast of a tasty rolex, served with a smile as always!


I met up with my friends, some old, some new, and we played our way through the sunlit part of the day. Painting, graffitiing, dancing, enjoying the fashion shows despite the rain (question to ponder – what is more beautiful at such an event? The clothes? Or the models? It was my first “real” experience of an up-close catwalk extravaganza and I was drooling … though I could not put my finger on precisely which side of this coin I was leaning more towards!), and making the most of all the shows that were on offer. Which included spectacular contemporary dance performances (involving some of my very talented friends of course), and some more amazing musicians.

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During the evening we made the most of the village area and enjoyed the delightful tastes of the local brew, where you can sit together and partake in the communal experience of warm Malwa (though admittedly I am yet to acquire a taste for Tontu!). They come with a warning though – easy to drink, but not so easy to notice the alcohol content … cue us fooling around with photos, pretending to be drunk! The set-up of the village area was really nice and I adored listening to the drumming and watching everyone enjoy dancing to the ad-hoc rhythms, moving to the sounds with such ease and enjoyment.

There was so much going on, that it really was hard to recall that amidst all of this, we were actually just in the centre of crazy, chaotic, vibrant Kampala.

Some of the musicians I really enjoyed included:

  • Iryn Namubiru
  • Gravitti
  • Amadinda Sound System
  • MoRoots
  • Winyo
  • Byg Ben and Sharon Sento
  • Tribute ‘Birdie’ Mboweni
  • Blip Discs
  • Anthony Jermaine
  • Ronald Mayinja

And others that sadly I do not know the name of.

There were comedians that had me laughing to tears (Daniel Omara was fantastic), clown/acrobats that had me in stitches (Mandragora Circo – the link is from South Africa as filming was not allowed for their performance), and cultural dances that had me on the edge of my seat (encapsulating the tradition of circumcision as a rite of passage into manhood by the Bagisu tribe).

And we simply played, played and played. I once more befriended another gorgeous little Ugandan boy (who’s mum was mesmerised by how easily he took to me and then realised that it is my calling to work with children, and said that this shone through).  He had great fun playing with all of my jewellery and running around the site in my boda helmet – bless him, it was almost as big as he was! We danced with a chimpanzee, (as you do, although to be fair I have a fear of masks so it wasnt as carefree as this sounds), we pretended to be movie stars, and we frolicked on the Bayimba sign. I adored it all and by the time Sunday night arrived and I fell into bed, I felt like I had once more traveled far, yet I had barely even left home!

One final curiosity of this experience not to go unnoticed, was the discovery of the “feminist” area. One of my female Ugandan friends seemed a bit unsure about a piece of artwork that she had spotted within this section. So I took it upon myself to see what it was she was referring to. Admittedly, upon viewing it, I was not shocked – in Brighton and in other realms of my experiences, I have seen things like this before. But it certainly was the last thing I expected to see here in Uganda …

This whole place fascinates me no end, and I feel like I have never learnt so much in a daily experience before. Amazing wanderings, that I feel blessed to be doing.

One thought on “A city of artists

  1. John G Oliver

    You are having the time of your life aint you,
    and so you should, Work hard and play harder………lol
    dancing with chimps now……..what ever next..lol


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