Kiwewa’yimba: Creative minds, dare to fail!

In my first column, I thought I was incisive and provocatively triggering dialogue and debate when I tackled the disturbances hindering the growth and development of art in Uganda. Not that I expected much in response, but at least I had expected some of the creative minds that our country hosts to snap their fingers and say: “Yeah, this is it! We need to move on and this is my contribution!”

By Faisal Kiwewa

How come? Well, I am not going to dwell on the fact that creative entrepreneurs in Uganda are confronted with multiple disturbances. Times to point fingers and blame others for these disturbances have long past. Funny enough, we still remain eager to blame others and continue to call for action without taking real action thereupon.

And yes, we might not have the necessary skills and professional education in the area of arts and cultural management, but I cannot help but notice that the main disturbance is a lacking ability amongst our creative entrepreneurs to really dare.

Daring creative entrepreneurs

If we are honest to ourselves, the gradual development of Uganda’s creative industry has come about because of the presence of some daring creative entrepreneurs: Those who understand that realising any idea or achieving any progress comes with risks and – at times – with failures. They have experimented, gone extra miles, sacrificed time, energy and financial resources to bring new cutting edge initiatives and increase artistic creativity.

I was once told it is better to have a worthy failure than a mediocre success.

And I concur with this to the fullest, because “flops” – as the journalist fraternity prefers to put it – are part and parcel of a later greater contribution to a much-needed progress and success. A failure is not the end of the tunnel, but offers a moment of reflection and a chance to go back to the drawing board to come up with new and better ideas. To start all over again, but this time heading for success.

Looking at experiments from a scientific research perspective, we have to note that some scientists spend their whole life failing. But no one questions the value of their work because those failures contribute to the much greater and longer path of eventual success. So, why do we not value artistic experimentalism the same way, as a valuable contribution to greater successes, to our country’s creative progress?

It is a sad fact that the number of daring creative entrepreneurs remains few.

More innovative ideas

There is little experimentalism; there are few innovative ideas. And many times, such innovative ideas are badly duplicated and multiplied, so that we again end up with more of the same. Most creative entrepreneurs seem to reside comfortably on their island of artistic happiness without even thinking about the greater implications that their work could actually have.

Where is the motivation, the interest, the idealism to contribute to develop the Ugandan creative industry into something unique, something outstanding and something that will be recognised throughout the world as something purely Ugandan?

I am aware that there is also a lot of talking of this kind, but there is little real action, rendering the talking into lip service. During many arts conferences in Uganda, East Africa and the continent I continue to hear that the development of the creative industry depends on the next interventions. However, they forget to add that we need daring interventions, those that bring about change, enhance our so badly needed resilience.

So I do dare to say; our creative entrepreneurs are not daring enough to leverage our great local arts and culture! It seems we are collectively missing out on a great opportunity.

This raises a pertinent question: How does one nurture adventure, ambition and guts amongst creative entrepreneurs?

Shake up the so-called establishment

I am not sure whether I can give you a clear-cut answer myself. I speak from experience that it requires guts to shake up the so-called establishment in our creative sector. And I have tried to make my own modest contribution to stimulate creative abilities to dare. This often comes down to seriously kicking some butts. Because it takes some good convincing to make creative minds make use of their capabilities and capacities, making them understand that there is no one to unlock their potential but themselves, getting them to the point to dare, more and again.

Fortunately, I have seen a good number taking on this call to dare. So that is the positive news: we need creative entrepreneurs that lead by example. But we need more of them.

Not to copy them and have more of the same, but to learn from and get inspired by them and develop own new ideas.

And creative entrepreneurs would not only set an example for their fellows; they would set an example for the economy and society at large, preaching the gospel of creativity for all our actions. We would then serve a much larger segment than just our modest arts and culture sector; we would serve our economy, our society and our people.

Despite all this lamenting, I am also convinced that it is not too late to use our rich cultural heritage and artistic minds to transform Uganda socially and economically. It can still be realized if we persist, mind our business, make use of the available creativity and, most importantly, dare to fail!

I am calling upon those that are blessed with creativity and creative minds to dare: To fail, to flop, to move further, in the interest of paving the way for a creative and prospering Uganda!

Faisal Kiwewa is the Founder and Director of Bayimba Cultural Foundation and current Chairperson of the organizing committee of the Uganda Annual Conference on Arts and Culture.

Now, would like to hear the readers’ opinions about the questions Faisal Kiwewa is addressing.


8 thoughts on “Kiwewa’yimba: Creative minds, dare to fail!

  1. Denis, Uganda had a “golden era” of literature? Perhaps you want to expand on that a bit. Define “golden”; define “Our”.

  2. When i was covering the Umoja festival in Kampala, i interviewed Lawrence Branco, a participant, and he said something that left a profound impression on me. He said what’s deterring our arts industry from growing is the unwillingness of those involved to cooperate. Everyone wants to go it alone and we end up with small, silent unit groups that don’t get enough publicity or sponsorship, or when they do, it comes much later. Then the participants are poorly paid or not paid at all because the preoccupation of the organiser, often, is to make money and not to develop the industry. That’s the tragedy of Uganda. I’m happy Bayimba has tried to engage professionals in all areas and garnered publicity and sponsorship. There’s a high level of professionalism in the way it handles its stuff, and that’s commendable. If you’ve been following the Inspire Africa show on TV, you realise it’s fast becoming a success because of the involvement of far-reaching stakeholders. This is the antidote we need for our arts industry to get to the mountaintop. United we evolve, divided we dissolve! For as Branco told me, the universal principle remains that for art to grow it has to be put out there and shared. @Doreen, Femrite needs to take this seriously, involve more schools, organise reading book signing session and related stuff because it has the potential of doing greater than it is doing and reviving the golden era of our literature.

  3. There is a definite need for “worthy failures”. We need to remember that all the innovations and inventions that exist had to go through a considerable number of failures. Learning how to walk means you run the risk of landing on your butt….

  4. We can think of so many ways of promoting our art but one factor that has always been overlooked by artists and their promoters alike is the issue of social relevance. Even without writing a thousand words for an online journal which many of my contemporaries may never read, you get a deserving response and impact with art that touches peoples daily life.
    There’s a school for thought which dictates that art is for the higher society: that to appreciate art you must me a scholar of sorts or an art connoisseur when it comes to visual art.
    This school for thought has dented the art landscape in Uganda. How about if an artist produced work that speaks volume to my mother who has no art background whatsoever.
    This selective thinking as it is, is no good for the art industry in Uganda which in so many ways is still getting its right footing.
    We must get off that high horse and stop thinking the way we think. Thinking outside the box is the way to go here.

  5. Naki, I love your comment. Faisal, when you write with such passion, many times you will not get the desired response which can be disheartening but that is how internet works. People have choices to respond or not, that does not mean they have not read the article. Creative entrepeunership is interesting. Personally, as someone who belongs here, I am currently working with writers from Rwanda, Kenya and Southern Sudan to partner with the BN Poetry Foundation and I feel a thousand times more energy than from my Ugandan counterparts. I will not point fingers at anyone but I have learnt to work with those I can whether Ugandan or not keeping in mind that Uganda is and always will be my birth of creativity and place I return to more often than not for creative inspiration. For me, it is more a lack of energy and enthusiasm than daring ideas.

  6. Very well said and put. “Entrepreneurship” is that essential “ingredient” whose absence becomes undeniably clear once it’s missing. Doreen, I could come up with many examples of worthy failures. And I believe all we have to do is turn our heads just above the shoulders to see “mediocre” succeses – although I believe strongly that those unworthy successes cannot be called “art” by any stretch of the imagination – but I am aware that such a qualification is a fraught one. But I believe that we in the art community have a debt to repay – a debt arising from the fact that we are interested and believe – by closing rank and supporting worthy causes. I believe this is the other important dimension in what Faisal is writing about here; society ought to actively conspire to make successful its worthy members.

  7. Iam greatful that we share the same idea. but before you talk about ceative entrepreneurs whom i assume are indiviuals, lets talk about the real enterpreneur whose hand is so much needed if the arts are to be appreciated more and respected,THE GORVERNMENT. Until he/she is on board,Uganda’s creative minds feel left out in one way or another.

  8. I dare you to give us examples of recent worthy failures and of ideas that have been “badly duplicated”? Also, is there such a thing as “purely Ugandan”? Just wondering.

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