We were driving slowly through Kisoro town on Christmas Eve and I realised I was feeling even more chirpy than usual.
Granted, Christmas evokes a nice, warm feeling in me regardless of where I am, provided I am with family, but there was an additional, brightly coloured array of feelings that made me think specifically of the district and municipal leadership.
I don’t know them all personally, even though one of them is a relative of sorts, but I had an extra amount of cheer and goodwill towards the leaders of the district. Since this doesn’t normally apply to politicians in general, I turned my thoughts to working it out, and was at the Kisoro Natural Honey building when I put my finger on it – not on the building, on the reason for my convivial disposition towards these politicians.
It had something to do with the flowers lining the side of the road.
If you don’t know Kisoro, Google it; but briefly, it’s volcanic so the soils are black and grey, the side roads are rocky, and the rocks are jagged. All around it are volcanic hills commanded by the Muhavura Ranges covered in green and black like soldiers. Many of the homesteads are walled by short embankments made of the same grey or black jagged volcanic rocks.
Set against each other, the dark metallic greys and lush greens are the vain wish of an interior decorator, and in more developed countries they charge you a lot of money to recreate the effect in sullen places.
Which brings me back to the Kisoro District leaders; if they are not a team of decorators or landscape artists, then they have either employed the services of good ones or they were each raised by a good set of responsible, home-maker parents.
The flowers that brightened up my mood and the roadside are uncomplicated clumps of yellows, pinks, blues, whites and purples, planted in deliberate, consistent lines in a dependable order. The sun reflects off them more pleasantly than it would bounce off a glassy marble-tiled skyscraper.
Kisoro doesn’t have to say or paint those three little words for you to appreciate that Uganda is, indeed, ‘Gifted By Nature’.
I was happy.
A couple of months before that, when the Kampala Mayorship scuffles were at their height, some people including a senior (age-wise) politician made commentary to the effect that the flowers planted around the city were not enough reason to applaud the city authorities.
I think very different – whereas flowers or aesthetics are not the only deliverables I demand from the authorities, they are very welcome and sorely needed. Make any place look nice and you will attract people; plus, they will be in a good mood when they get there; and, most importantly, they will try to maintain or improve on the beauty, and thus they behave better.
I recall vaguely a study in the United States that concluded that crime-ridden and poverty-struck areas changed for the better when cleaning and beautification programmes were introduced there.
I believe that’s because of the nice feelings caused by the sight of flowers. It’s the same principle we follow during courtship, some of us. And at kwanjulas and weddings we decorate homes, venues, cars and even the bridal couples themselves with bouquets and floral arrangements that include a carnation on the lapel of the most square-faced groom.
Being a lush, tropical country with the world’s best climate, it’s should be obvious that we’d choose flowers for everything of this nature.
Businessman Kwame Ruyondo, a most amusing source of the most surprising conversations ever, once told me how a hapless fellow once stopped him in earnest to ask: “Naye compound z’abaggaga nga zimulisa obumuli amangu” (But why do well-to-do people’s compounds flower very quickly)? He didn’t have an answer, but asked the fellow whether he had planted flowers at his own place of abode.
He hadn’t, being so hapless, because he didn’t think they would grow as fast or beautiful as a rich man’s would. And that’s probably another reason flowers are significant – as a sign that one has a positive, optimistic, progressive attitude and understands how gifted we are by nature. Which is not to say that anyone who doesn’t plant flowers outside his home or have a flower pot in his office has instead a pessimistic, hapless, backward-looking attitude, because that would be impolite…