Bayimba Festival: Champion of the Arts
Between the 16th and the 18th September, the National Theater and Dewington Road next to it will be a riotous blaze of sound, colour, fashion and the spoken word: The Bayimba Festival is coming to town.
By Achola Rosario
Rosette Ntyefas is one of the coordinater of the festival and the connected workshop. She speaks about the foundation’s work with clear pride at the scale of achievements they have made since its inception in June 2006.
“Bayimba Cultural Foundation is presenting a festival of arts and culture which aims to provide a platform that is not limited to any specific art form. It tries to incorporate all disciplines within the arts,’’ explains Rosette Ntyefas.
Regional exchange of artists
Bayimba supports a number of artists by hosting workshops and offering a festival programme which is free to experience. In fact, Bayimba does not make any money from providing such a platform for artists in every region of Uganda. They do however have an annual operating budget of UGX 200 million.
Earlier this year the Bayimba festival has been to Jinja, Mbarara, Arua, Gulu, and Mbale. Every time taking the gospel of creativity to the grassroots and helping aspiring artists and performers polish their skills. They identify artists who are located in those areas, and they give them a platform to perform their music or their discipline.
They also bring in artists from Kampala to perform and showcase their work in the regional festivals so that artists from other regions can have an example of what they can do to improve their craft.
Using workshops to improve skills
Bayimba also facilitates workshops with the intention to championing important initiatives aimed at increasing the role and potentials of the arts and cultural sector in Uganda.
Earlier this year, they organised a workshop on arts management training, hosted by Micheal Kaiser. Later they ran an economic course, where different artists participated in economics training. In addition, Bayimba have carried out a hip-hop workshop and photography workshops.
During the week leading up to the festival, from the 13th to the 19th September, they are organizing the arts journalism workshop. (Editor remarks: Startjournal.org are one of the contributors in this workshop.)
“We usually empower artists through workshops, seminars and festivals,” says Ms Ntyefas. “There are different funders for different projects, but our major financial supporter are the Doen Foundation and HIVOS.
In addition, the Netherlands Embassy funded the street theatre workshop. The interested results of that one have already been showcased in many regions of Uganda, and festival in Kampala will now be the final performances.” (Startjournal.org wrote about the experience of the street theatre workshop and performances in this article.)
Artists support and photo opportunities
Since 2008, Bayimba Foundation has supported over 200 artists, including both the festivals and the workshops. Each year they plan for a particular workshop for disciplines and projects where they discover a need in certain communities.
“Last year we had a photography workshop. The results were quite good, and it lead to two of the participants going to Katanga to continue a photo documentary project. This year another photo workshop was held in the Katanga slum area, with ten participating photographers during two weeks in August. The photo exhibition has already got some press coverage, there has been articles written in the Another Africa-blog, and the photos will be displayed during the festival,” says Ms Ntyefas.
Something for everyone
Last year the festival registered a turn out of over 42,000 people who came to watch the various activities in music, fashion, painting and other artistic manifestations. This year, Bayimba are hoping for an even bigger crowd.
The festival is spread out on the theater grounds with a concert stage in the parking lot and other activities in the auditorium. There will be film screenings in the Green Room and the upper garden. There will also be a kids corner – in this way Bayimba tries to target as many different types of people as they can.
“First of all, we took significant steps towards the development of a year-round artistic and educational program, which is not only centred around the annual Bayimba International Festival. It also includes a range of activities, from workshops and discussions to exchange programmes and other events, throughout the year.
This year has also been the year in which we successfully have introduced and launched the concept of the Bayimba Regional Festivals. The intention has been to embrace other cultures, reach out to new audiences, and to create a countrywide impact for the arts sector,” Kiwewa Faisal, the Director of the the Bayimba Foundation, informs us in their annual general meeting.
Strategic approaches to funding
In a country that stopped to care about the funding and promotion of artistic products and creativity a long time ago, Bayimba is showing that there is a clear demand for creative products. This is clearly demonstrated by the growing popularity and audience in arts events.
Bayimba’s strategy is obviously working, because they have reached a stage where they are unifying artists and providing meaningful discussion on how to improve the status of the arts and artists in Uganda.
“Together with our partners in arts and culture, we premiered the Uganda Annual Conference on Arts and Culture earlier this year. This has been one of the greatest initiatives in the sector today, and it seeks to provide a platform for joint discussion and action in the cultural industry,’’ explains Kiwewa Faisal.
The Bayimba organisers say they are in the process of developing concrete plans to provide a structured financial support scheme for arts initiatives and individual artists. By doing so they hope to enhance, inspire and motivate creative minds, while also focusing their own creative minds to set up lasting arts structures.
Between January 2008 and December 2009, roughly UGX 394 million was spent by Bayimba Cultural Foundation on emphasizing the value of arts and culture in transforming and shaping society.
Highlights to expect
For Rosette Ntyefas, the highlight of the festival is unquestionable the street theater performances: “Personally, I am really looking forward to the people’s reactions to the street theatre. We are going to have two forms of street theatre during the festival; one from Sophie Nagla and the other from our own Uganda street theatre group.
In the different regions people reacted differently and I am really looking forward to how people in Kampala will be taken by surprise. We will probably show it on Dewington Road. We will try not to disorganise the traffic, but there is a certain section that will be blocked – so that should be interesting,” smiles Rosette.
Achola Rosario is a Ugandan art activist and writer living in Kampala. All photos taken from Bayimba Cultural Foundation‘s website.