proudly displaying the glorious beauty of the crested crane of Uganda and my own heritage


I WOKE up this Saturday to the usual avalanche of overnight WhatsApp messages, and as usual focused on the timely morning ones in the groups I value most, among which was the question: “Guyz help wiz de spelling of Crested Crane in Luga flow”.

What he meant, this friend of mine aged more or less the same as I but who obviously spends a lot of time with very young, poorly educated people, was: “Friends, kindly furnish me with the correct spelling of the word for ‘Crested Crane’ in our beloved Luganda as written by our ancestors?”

I deciphered his meaning and responded quickly with, “Engaali“, which another friend shortly thereafter corrected to “Eng’aali” – because “ng'”

Handwriting
ng’

replaces that combination letter
we use in Luganda. It gave him great pleasure to make this correction, since I am always giving my pals grief by correcting their English (with the exception of the first question of the day).

I conceded, but with the explanation that I did not have the combination letter on my keyboard and also that the spelling was acceptable my way in some contexts.

Then I concluded with: (“My grandfather was Mawesano”).

The Crested Crane is also called “Entuha” in Runyakitara languages or dialects, and shortly after my WhatsApp convo one of my cousins called Sentuwa came to mind as a shelving project his workshop, Derrick Furniture and Fittings, had made designs for last year has being looked over by an artist who was going to essay it in clay and paints.

That went by quickly until many hours later when I received a call that came in during a five-minute gap in which I was free to take it.

The caller was called Maximo Beyongyera, a young man who worked at Sentuwa’s Derrick F & F, and he was calling to make a delivery.

I have met Maximo only once, on the day he came over with Sentuwa (I use the name on its own here quite deliberately) to consider the shelving project. He is a young man, and was rather quiet on the day as we walked around talking about design and carpentry and entrepreneurship. If you knew my cousin and I together you would understand Maximo’s silence.

I had to draw him out at the end of the day to talk a little bit about his background and interest in design. He was authentic and quite keen, and very, very interested in proving that Ugandans could make the very best of things as other nationalities – hence his employment in a carpentry workshop. In which particular workshop, I must add, he was clearly well-placed, as most carpentry workshops don’t come with artists but Sentuwa is an Accountant who was also behind an IT company, so his things were bound to be different and interesting.

Our project didn’t take off, for some reason, but a couple of weeks ago Maximo wrote me an email telling me he had left Derrick F & F, and apologising over the shelving project not getting done. That was odd, as I didn’t think it was his fault or that it was his place to issue an apology.

Even more odd, but very pleasantly so, was the rest of his email which stated that since he left the employ of my cousin, “since you are a lover of art, I have been keeping an art work which I wanted to hand over to you on the day of our project’s completion because I wanted to create a relationship as far as creative art is concerned.”

I was immediately moved by the passion this employee was putting into his work, may God bless him wherever he goes only for him to continue with:

“I have attached three art works for you to choose one and take it for free and I know you will like them.”

I was licked!

mosaics
Photos and Art Pieces by Maximo Beyongyera

I found it hard to choose, but replied with gratitude and asked what the market value of the other two pieces would be, hoping that I could snap them up myself or find him some serious buyers.

The value was serious numbers – which made the offer of a free one cause me to take an even deeper breath of gratitude to him and whoever raised him!

Eventually, I found time to go over to collect my (absolutely free!) art piece from the showroom where they were kept but the caretakers there didn’t have clear instructions, so I left empty handed but having informed Maximo.

And today, he called me to make a delivery, asking that I make appropriate arrangements for him not to be turned away on arrival.

He did not want a transport refund, or even hint at compensation. He was taking off personal time to personally deliver a highly valuable work of art that he had personally created as a personal gift to be given to me as a memoir for a project that had not taken off.

I got back home in a hurry to place the piece in its appointed position, and everyone present marvelled at its composition – a mixed media piece with a shiny, glassy veneer on top of a pin board material, put together in mosaic.

img_20160312_223455.jpg
Maximo’s chosen art piece (Photo: Simon Kaheru)

In the evening, as I told my little family the story of how the art piece had arrived into our lives, I noticed the resemblance between Sentuwa’s name and the word Entuha – yet earlier this morning I did wonder fleetingly what link there was between Entuha and Eng’aali in our Bantu languages.

Well, right now Maximo Beyongyera’s piece is in a place of honour right opposite another Crested Crane by one Alfred Businge of Masindi,

img_20160312_223613.jpg
Businge’s art piece (Photo: Simon Kaheru)

whose resilience I applaud since making a living off fine art in Masindi cannot be easy.

Maximo Beyongyera’s other pieces are on display in a showroom on Old Port Bell Road, opposite the Petro Fuel Station, in Shop No. 1. But if you call him up on 0705768063 you can snap up one of the other two or commission him to do something bespoke for you.

I have seen a couple of Crested Cranes within my neighbourhood, but none has perched within my garden yet. Still, I am thankful to Maximo Beyongyera and Alfred Businge for their talent as I now have two of the birds right in my daily living space.

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