Every place has its story. The best way to appreciate any place is by understanding its history and culture. That is what shapes the way of life of the people that inhabit it.
Theatre has always been the main medium through which people express and celebrate their cultures. This can be traced in all societies in the world. Societies such as Greece, Elizabethan England, and the seventeenth century France and that of European modernism were expressed through plays.
Renowned arts curator, Moses Serubiri says, “In Buganda, artistes had central place in the palace. They were given precedence to provide critical remarks as they were seen as intellectuals who could challenge the political discourse of the Buganda society.”
However with time, theatre as a space for celebrating culture and creativity had taken a back seat in Uganda due to a number of factors. Theatre in Uganda was once the pastime for many but also a full time job for a hundred more. When the political environment caught a fever from the then theatrical works, not only did the auditorium and stage shiver but also nearly lost their life. The recovery was slow and silent forcing the stubborn artistes that had stayed the course to tread silently. Town halls and theatre auditoriums soon became empty. They suffered from emptiness as they echoed each other’s misery. Cobwebs arose and the bats increased in numbers. Before long, the spaces were converted.
One of the people that ached with pain out of this setting was Dr Stephen Rwangyezi. His pain was a bit more painful. It stemmed from the coming of the colonialists. When the colonialists came, they declared the tradition and the cultures of the people as anti-Christian. For any one that practiced or celebrated them was tagged as unchristian. That hurts.
The year was 1984. He was a teacher at Lubiri S. S when together with a few of his students, decided to form a dance troupe. The aim of this troupe was to preserve the cultures that were quickly eroding. It was a dream born out of excitement and pain at the same time. Little did he know that the dream would trouble him for some years before he could realise it. Close to twenty years later in 2003, Ndere Cultrual Centre was established. A troupe had also been born just as had been the cultural performances.
In 2019, Ndere Cultural Centre has played the role of being the main venue for the sixth Kampala International Theatre Festival.
Ndere Cultural Centre is located in Kisasi, Kampala. It is one of the few artistic spaces with an exuberance for the arts on Uganda as exhibited through its distinctly selected touch of brown architectural design and print. The place offers performing space, accommodation, gardens and a restaurant and bar area. It is one of the few spaces designed to accommodate the artistes in whole.
Ndere hosted a number of shows. From Far Gone, Last Day of Spring, Nairobi Music Theatre Initiative, My Father & Other Super Heroes and all the workshops.
The other venue that played host to #KITF2019 was the Uganda Museum. The Uganda Museum was established close to eighty years ago under the leadership of Margaret Trowell. Trowell had set up the school of art at Makerere University and had been commissioned to set up a museum. The space they had at Makerere University became too small for the work they were doing. The colonial government then allocated 8 acres in Kitante for the construction of the museum, the very place it is located to date.
The Museum hosted The Hard Stuff: Happiness, Les Larmes De Crocodile and Children of Amazi. It also hosted the round table talks.
It was found important by the festival organisers to have two different venues because Ndere Centre has its in-house weekly shows every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. To give the festival all the attention it deserves, as second venue was considered. Both venues have hosted the festival before, Ndere Centre in 2015 and Uganda Museum in 2018.
Click on #KITF2019 to see what happened at the festival.