I HAD three tickets to last weekend’s Blankets & Wine festival but let them go to other people who were bound to find the entertainment there more to their weekend arrangements than I could – what with three charges all below the age of eighteen and their mother all being in charge of my schedule on such days.
Instead, I chose to walk my heavy luncheon off by accompanying the crew to the ‘Azulato Children’s Festival’, organised by the Goethe-Zentrum Kampala (the Ugandan German Cultural Society).
Anne Whitehead sent me the flyer earlier in the week after we had recorded a podcast at Skyz Hotel and it agreed with me – not just because entry was free.
She described it as “a bunch of fun arts and science activities for the kids”, which she knew would make me bite.
My larger family had questions, led by my little sister Freda Agaba who was born to be an Auditor and grew into the role at a level that terrorises many.
“But what is it supposed to be?!” she asked.
I was happy to discover what it presented, even though the definition for ‘Azulato’ didn’t show up anywhere at the venue or on the internet, though @BigEyeUG on Twitter defined it for me as “an amalgamation of two words…kuzuula and abato” – which Anne explains in detail and Luganda at the Meeting In The Skies podcast.
The website read: “Expect a wide range of fun and interactive workshops and performances, hands-on activities, such as mural painting, 3-d-printing, dance and music workshops, learning about robotics, science experiments and digital animation among others. The festival aims to promote the arts and sciences as a learning experience for children to develop their talents and grow their self-confidence, meet and make new friends and have fun. Azulato Children’s Festival is an inclusive festival for all children regardless of background and differences in abilities.”
I generally say things like ‘each to his or her own’. But by the time I got to the last tent of the Azulato festival I was questioning why so many of us are more willing, eager and likely to spend vast amounts of time and money at certain other types of events and not even swing by a free-to-enter high impact one like this.
The array of amazingness (accept that word as one that now exists in your life) was stunning even though the selection seemed scant and almost random. I knew some of the offerings – like the 40 Days over 40 Smiles Foundation people (Esther Kalenzi is still upset with me but we will clear issues up soon so I get back into her good books) and Alex Twinokwesiga’s ttpafrica.com (Turn The Page Africa).
The two young organisations work together to grow a reading culture in Uganda and Africa – 4040 raising funds to build literacy (and libraries) countrywide, while ttpafrica.com promotes reading – Ugandan authors – by way of an online library that served me up two books at Azulato itself.
Alex Twinokwesiga also has another project – www.somethingugandan.com – and when I spotted him I thought he was there for that.
somethingugandan.com is an online shop promoting Ugandan-made products across the board to the rest of the world.
Azulato had a large array of these – many of the kitenge and fabric type of products that people call “African” but of a markedly distinct quality. Nzuri Afrik had me gawking and gasping for their shoes but they don’t make them in my size.
Still, the young fellow there offered, I could take any of my own shoes and for a small fee they’d decorate them colourfully with bright fabrics to add a spring to my step and light up every path I walk on. I am selecting fabrics this week and have already put aside the items they will be sprucing up for me.
The children would have impoverished me if I let them linger at that particular stand, so I moved them along quickly but I know what they’ll be wanting for their birthdays, Christmas and any incentive to come.
If I had anyone to turn to for such treats I would have chosen the seats made out of used tyres – not just tyres stacked together and painted as I have done before; a young lady, Allen Nabukenya, operating under the name Njola made these extremely comfortable, wide rubber seats that go for Ushs500,000 a pop.
Besides those, she presented some handy and chunky bags that caught everybody’s eye.
What we didn’t see but you would have to probe for is her vision of training 100 young girls per month this year in how to make products out of waste materials, giving them a livelihood and cleaning up Uganda at the same time!
Like I said, we have amazing Ugandans out there but we seem not to focus on them at all.
Next to her stand was another Nabukenya – Hellen, this time – whose fabrics I will be wearing soon in their mixes of denim, cotton and kitenge. She was humble and soft-spoken maybe because her pieces spoke loudly on their own.
She was also being distracted by a little child and almost missed my astonishment at her products – which increased when I found the articles about her having exhibited her art in Denmark, France and Uganda.
She has flown Uganda’s flag with success but guess how many times she has been on page one or the podium for a national medal?
Perhaps as many as the animation and graphics designers behind the Crossroads Digital projects who told me their newest project, a TV series with an edutainment objective, was targeting the continent and globe and not just Uganda.
David Masanso is the farthest one can get from being arrogant while evoking an air of self-confidence that clearly relies on the quality of his team’s animations.
The voices behind the animation, though, are all too familiar, and when you read the credits you will stop to ask yourself why there is still so much foreign media inside our TV sets.
Martha Kay Kagimba, Daniel Omara, Salvadore Patrick Idringi, Patience Logose…all household Ugandan names and all listed up on glitzy websites declaring that this Ugandan production will be at the world’s most prestigious film festival, the Festival de Cannes from May 8 to May 19, 2018!
They said nothing about this world class status they had achieved, and focused on giving the children a good time.
I couldn’t begin to compare them to the braggarts that fill up our social space in this country over ‘achievements’ like buying cars and bottles of drinks in dim lighting.
There was more to be seen and enjoyed at Azulato, by adults and children alike, including the robotics display and getting the chance to print something off a 3D printer for the first time ever!
Discovering the Social Innovation Academy and their plastic bottle recycling that includes building entire houses was even more exciting when I found that they package roasted coffee called “Kyaffe” – grown by women farmers groups.
By this time the children had dispersed to take part in activities such as art and crafts, clay pot moulding, robotics and science experiments, so I had time enough to gather contacts for later use until we all converged at the Breakdance and Rap/Lugaflow workshop.
There, the mind was blown afresh at the sights and sounds of children ad-libbing rap and lugaflow that would make you cry at how well the dedication and hard work of Abramz Tekya is paying off.
His Breakdance Project, targeting vulnerable children, has built such a confidence in his young charges that if a Kalabanda ate their homework they’d challenge their teachers to a rap-off and win deservedly!
At the end of the day, my choice of a festival that spoke to children learning and developing over one that suggested alcohol and slumber was well made.