I MADE a decision to stop watching the Oscars and Grammies back in the late 90s when, one night as we were gathering to watch the glitzy ceremony, Paul Busharizi burst into a typically uncontrollable fit of laughter at me.
Our viewing station was the kazigo next to mine, and as we walked past my door I smoothly inserted and turned the key in the door lock, unlocked the padlock, threw back the bolt, pushed the door open and quickly tossed my notebook into the dark room where I was certain my bed was located, almost without breaking a step.
Bush was impressed at the fluidity of my movements, but that quickly broke down into his fits of laughter when my notebook landed onto the edge of what sounded like a plate with crockery on it, bouncing it into the air to crash land into some other items of an indeterminate but loud, clattering nature – muffled as I shut the door within seconds of having opened it.
This was muzigo life.
As usual, I endured his ribbing and it didn’t hurt my feelings because it was really funny. But I became alive to the idea that I was putting aside these hours to watch the glittering world of Hollywood’s richest and finest in their splendid clothes at expensive hotels, from the comfort of a squalid one-room muzigo off a very fair sized colour TV.
So I have tried over the years to bring some glitz and glamour into my own little life in whatever small measure, even if there are no lights and cameras involved.
Part of that has been supporting stages for our own entertainment industry to claim some of the prominence and attention the Oscars and other such shows seem to own.
Further opportunity to do so showed itself when, for the last couple of weeks on the international scene an uproar erupted over racism in the world of entertainment, under the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.
#OscarsSoWhite rocked social media almost as much as #BlackLivesMatter – which came up because of all those killings that involved white (police)men and dead black men – also racism.
#OscarsSoWhite arose because people were indignant that ALL the nominees for the Oscars this year were white – no blacks were deemed good enough to be nominated for these prized awards, and social mediaratti lost its collective control.
This was just weeks after Ugandan model Aamito Lagum was the subject of racist comments from ignorant and angry seemingly ‘white’ people, indignant over her inclusion in an ad for some high-end cosmetics – and that resulted in the social media campaign #PrettyLipsPeriod.
As all that was happening on the global scene I paid a visit to my daughter’s school and noticed once again that there were many posters, motivational messages and text book pages that feature non-Ugandans (their being white should not be the central issue).
As we waited to chat with her teacher, I received a couple of those ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Have a nice day’ WhatsApp messages with images of non-Ugandan (let’s not say ‘white’) babies, and my irritation bubbled over.
I immediately resolved to create my own WhatsApp greeting images using my own children (coming soon to a phone near you), in order to right the global imbalance between black and white. I am also creating for my daughter’s school motivational posters and messaging using images of ordinary, local Ugandans.
Even before vying for Oscar-winning roles, I am certain that creating more Ugandan content will right any so-called racial injustice and counter #OscarsSoWhite more effectively than a hashtag campaign.
If we allow our children to settle for a muzigo with a TV on which to watch the Oscars they will never get to the damn show either, let alone believe that they can create their own respectable alternative.
The Japanese are well known the world over for being efficient, precise and so highly sensitive about integrity that legend has it they will commit suicide painfully (‘hara-kiri’, or ‘seppuku’) if their personal reputations ever come into question.
It is the first two characteristics that make them such manufacturing and logistics superheroes that they have produced more cars than any other country in the world for the last fifty years.
They even came up with, and rolled out to the rest of the world, a concept called ‘Kaizen’, described as “the practice of continuous improvement…recognised an important pillar of an organisation’s long-term competitive strategy.”
In Uganda, the vast majority of our interaction with Japan is obviously the second hard vehicles that we shuttle about in…or so we thought:
Late last year I went for an Organic Farmer’s fair at the Acacia Mall; every other Saturday the Mall opens its rooftop up to small scale or cottage industries and sectors
in Uganda to exhibit and sell their wares – a corporate social initiative we don’t often see but that is high impact for the beneficiaries.
That day the exhibition was staged by NOGAMU – the National Organic Agricultural Movement of Uganda.
The exhibitors were mostly ladies, and their wares were exciting to see, especially for a chap like me who dabbles in backyard gardening and hopes to one day do some full-blown agriculture.
I walked through the displays of sugarcanes, paw-paws, fence, some massive cassava tubers, and even smoked fish. Weaving through the table stands I was pleasantly surprised to find that they even had packed products such as herbal teas and dried fruit snacks, all the way to soaps and oils.
The ladies (and a couple of young fellows) were all pleasant, welcoming and courteous – and they even had bits of products for us to chew on or sample, as part of their effort at enticing us to buy – “jaribu”, we used to call that, back in the day.
When we eventually got to the checkout table I was surprised to find I was being processed by a young Japanese lady – wearing one of those hats (you know the ones) but without a camera slung round her neck.
She wrote down my purchases quite neatly in a ledger, did the mental maths, then punched the numbers into a calculator to double check before writing me my receipt.
“What is this about?” I asked her, and she handed me her http://www.on-the-slope.com business card. We couldn’t engage in the type of lengthy discussion I would have wanted to, as she was at work and perhaps my enthusiasm was more than she cold bear at the time.
But I accosted one of her Ugandan colleagues, a very well-spoken young lady, who also gave me a business card and offered to make products available for home delivery if I so wished.
That is a whole different story, so I’ll stick to this one.
I went to the www.on-the-slope.com website and found the tab ‘Uganda Project’, and scrolled through many nice photographs of ordinary, healthy-looking Ugandans in healthy-looking upcountry rural locations holding up healthy-looking fruits and vegetables.
The quality of the photographs was not surprising since the Japanese famously make those cameras and lenses, but it was pleasing to see such positive energy about Uganda on a foreign website.
The text was in Japanese so Google translate didn’t tell me enough of what was happening, so I still don’t know much about this project besides the obvious – the Japanese are promoting Uganda’s organic produce.
The lady working with NOGAMU is part of the project, probably here short term to intern or do some skills transfers.
More importantly, to me, if the Japanese are here promoting Uganda’s organic agriculture, shouldn’t we be taking more notice ourselves?
It would appear, from that website and other links it led me to, that some organic food is already being exported to Japan! Are we exchanging this food for the second hand cars? Definitely not – but somebody else pointed out to me that we should be doing so in a big way, because:
Japan appreciates us. Japan likes organic food. Japan has no space for growing their own food. We have that space. We grow organic food quite easily. We are good enough for the reputation-sensitive Japanese to come here and identify with us.
Quod erat demonstrandum.
THIS Zika virus is pissing me off quite a lot.