A new dawn in arts funding in Uganda’s creative sector
By Dominic Muwanguzi
In 2016, Jonathan Kintu (not real name) had an idea to build an installation in his community. The functional artwork was intended to engage the community of Kasubi, a city suburb, into responsible waste dumping and also provide recreational facilities to children in the slummy neighbourhood where there’s little opportunity to be creative. Almost four years later after its inaugural launch, the project has stalled because of financial hiccups. The estimated meager budget for the project was nearly depleted within the first one year because of the ever-emerging expenses from pilot studies, routine community sensitization campaigns and operating licenses from the local government.
Financial constraints & Creative compromises
This unfortunate scenario continues to be-devil many creative projects by artists in the local communities. It is one thing to have a brilliant idea on paper and another altogether to be able to execute it as a result of the financial constraints. Unluckily, unlike many entrepreneurial ventures that can elicit government funding through schemes like Youth Livelihood Fund or adequate access to finance through banks, many “creatives” have little mandate and expertise to attract funding because of their informal structures. To subdue this disparity in the creative sector, local funding of art projects has often been proposed. This is critical in perpetuating local relevance of creativity and sustainability of the projects. This uniqueness may not be realized with foreign funding that is usually limited or might require a certain level of creative compromise to the project as spelt out by the donor.
A new Arts fund for individual artists
Kuonyesha Arts Fund has certainly created a precedent in this tradition of cultural trusts that are notoriously elusive to a larger group of artists. The fund established in October 2019, is openly extended to all creative genres like visual arts, performing arts and Arts research.
The procedure to apply has been simplified to undercut the idea of selectiveness. In this, applications forms are filled in with basic information with background knowledge of the informal nature of several artists. They’re then sent to the organizers through the friendliest means; either through email or physically dropped at respective arts spaces like Uganda National Cultural Centre (UNCC) and private art galleries.
A more interesting facet of the cultural fund is its nationwide interest and not focusing on Kampala like the previous funds have done. Although it is still a pilot project engagement, the objectivity and inclusiveness of the project is already visible in its presence in spaces like Karamoja and Gulu. Karamoja was selected because of the perpetual prejudice with the locale.
The Karamonja region is often described by many Ugandans as a back-ward place that is entirely detached from the rest of the country. For Gulu, it is endorsed as a priority because of its turbulent political past that led to many community structures to be broken. Although the community is slowly undergoing a recovery and rehabilitation process, funding of creative projects within the community is identified as a more potential means to perpetuate the recuperation. Kampala was obviously identified in this project because of its centrality in the culture scene of Uganda. Every culture is sufficiently presented in Kampala because of the business potential in unfolds.
The success of this venture nonetheless will depend on the adequate response of artists in all their multiplicity. Through application to the fund, individual artists or groups of artists will get money to support their projects for a period of eight months. The aftermath of such an initial grant – the project takes on a philanthropy procedure- will determine the continuity of the project within the spheres of spreading it to other regions of the country and increasing funds to respective projects in the long-run.
In the midst of a growing young population that increasingly subscribes to the creative sector for employment and financial empowerment, it is certain that this cultural fund will provide the necessary financial assistance to the youth to realize their dreams of creativity and innovation. Albeit this useful intervention in the arts sector, government participation to create substantial policies to streamline the creative sector is still much needed.
The Kuonyesha Arts Fund is an initiative of Civ Source Africa with collaboration from Robert Bosch Stiftung and Stichting Doen
Dominic Muwanguzi is former editor Startjournal.org and a freelance art writer/ researcher on the Kampala Art Scene.