News Brief

Bobi Wine Is 'Seriously Considering' Challenging President Museveni in Uganda's 2021 Elections

The musician and opposition lawmaker says he plans on galvanizing young people to vote in a new interview with CNN.

Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, is likely to take Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to task in the country's 2021 presidential elections, CNNreports.

Speaking with CNN'sRobyn Curnow, the musician and opposition lawmaker says he's "seriously considering" challenging Museveni after hearing the many calls for him to stand in the next elections.

Wine also touched on his efforts to launch a grassroots movement for young people to be encouraged to head to the polls. Because Museveni has changed the constitution twice to extend his stay in office (despite ruling Uganda since 1986), such dictatorships have been able to last due to the suppression of young people, he says. Empowering the youth to vote could change that.

"We started a campaign calling upon all people of Uganda, especially the young people that have been so apathetic to go ahead and register themselves and be voters. Not just supporters but voters," Wine says to CNN. "We believe that by the time we get to the election which is about two years away, we will have many Ugandans registered as voters and overwhelming Museveni looks like our only way out."

Museveni, however, has yet to officially announce that he will be contesting to remain Uganda's president in the next elections. Ofwono Opondo, a spokesperson for the government was also dismissive of Wine's statement.

"Wine is being presumptive, perhaps to ride on Museveni's name to gain some international attention. Otherwise, it is his right to do so if he really wants to run for the Presidency of Uganda," Opondo says in a statement to CNN. "It's not up to Museveni to prepare a handover. His job is to ensure elections are organized and held, regularly and on time and the winner according to the popular vote will lead Uganda."

Revisit our conversation with the Ghetto President here.

Photo Credit: Nigel Glasgow

Sungi Mlengeya Uses Her Art to Celebrate Tanzanian and Ugandan Women

Sungi Mlengeya discusses stylistic choices in her art, women as her muse, and her exhibition in The Africa Centre, London.

Sungi Mlengeya has spent the better years of her artistic life refining her visual aesthetic. Opting for minimalism and monochromatic colors, the Dar es Salaam-born artist tries to celebrate the women in her life, exploring every lived moment she shared with them and illuminating the powerful roles of these women to the growth of their societies. Her work often features women in movement, capturing acrobatic poses.

A career in the arts wasn't always apparent for Mlengeya, who is self-taught. After studying finance in university and graduating from Catholic University of Eastern Africa in 2013, she started a career in banking, while selling pieces of her artwork on the side. In 2018, she started working with a gallery and she has been a full time artist ever since.

In her new exhibition, titled (Un)choreographed, Mlengeya explores the essence of dance and the several ways it serves not just as an expression for women but as a means for women’s liberation. Speaking to OkayAfrica, Mlengeya discusses stylistic choices in her art, women as her muse, and her exhibition in The Africa Centre, London, which opened earlier this month and runs until July 24th.

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You switched from working in the bank to an artist. What motivated you to pursue art as a career?

I have always wanted to be an artist but I didn’t know how and when. It was just a pipe dream. I chose to study finance because I thought it would be a general knowledge I could apply in my personal affairs whether it was an art related business or any business or I could either get employed with it. I just felt it was general because I didn’t want something specific like an account which would limit me to a certain career choice.

As a child, were you so drawn to art?

Yes. I remember in kindergarten, we were made to draw people in our homes, and I drew my mother and my Aunty who was living with us, and I rushed home to show them the painting and my mother jokingly said, “this isn’t me.” I remember having this feeling which was so warm and it made me think I captured their essence in a way, even though it didn’t completely look like them, I just felt like it would be a drawing I would always remember. Over the years, from Dar es Salaam, we relocated to Serengeti — which is one of the largest national parks in Tanzania — my parents were wildlife veterinarians so we lived in the park for about 10 years.

There were no electric poles because of conservation purposes so we only had generator power at night so the days were so long because we couldn’t watch TV. We had to come up with other ways to fulfill the days. My mother had these magazines and they had craft sections, so my sister and I will always make crafts from those magazines. Everyday we would make something new from paper or just from cutting and fixing things together and in the evening, we would try out recipes. Most of my childhood was about creating things and I think that has contributed a lot to me becoming an artist because I find so much joy in doing all those things.

Sungi Mlengeya artwork

Photo Credit: Nigel Glasgow

In your work, you’re always keen to document the lives of black and Tanzanian women? Tell me about it.

When I started painting, women were my first muse. I didn’t know why, it was a random decision. I decided to continue painting women as a way of celebrating the women in my life. I usually paint them with strong expressions because I want to inspire a feeling of strength, power and freedom to the women that I’m representing. These are Tanzanian and Ugandan women because these are the places I have a lived experience of and I’m so familiar with those around me which gives me the power to paint the women that I know.

When did you relocate to Uganda?

It was when my gallery invited me in mid 2019. In Uganda I decided to persist with using black and white color in my work. Back in Tanzania I also used the black and white color but I was also exploring other things. But in Uganda, I moved with consistency and my scale of work increased. I think that consistency could have happened anywhere. I’m not trying to insinuate that because of the change of environment. I mean it’s a journey, I keep experimenting with new directions and my art has progressed as well.

Is there any difference between the art scene in Tanzania and that of Uganda

I think it’s more vibrant in Uganda, the galleries here, like mine, are taking part in the global art scene, inviting artists and doing international exhibitions. For my country’s art scene, there is growth. It’s still budding and I’m keen on seeing the several amazing things they do.

Was your minimalist approach to monochromatic colors very intentional?

No, it was not. When I started I wanted to make a painting with a perfect background and I had no clue on what the background would be. So I started painting the face first and, when I finished, I really loved how it looked. There was a contrast of the dark skin against the white background and that was beautiful. It made the painting stand out. But overtime, I have come to attach meaning to it. For me, space means freedom because just deciding to continue to do that meant it was liberating to me as an artist. It helped me focus on what I cared about, which was the women in my art and I really didn’t care much about the background. I was just allowing myself to do what was liberating, and also the women I paint are also in a space where they are free to go about life doing things they want to do, be their true self without the limitations and cultural norms that hinder from pursuing a certain type of life they want.

Sungi Mlengeya event

Photo Credit: Nigel Glasgow

Tell me about your artistic process?

My process is quite explorative, it begins with taking photographs of models. I tell them to pose a certain way or sometimes we get random poses and then I use the photographs to reference. Sometimes I play around with the photograph to add some trick here and there, so that the process is sort of playful. Before it was just turning the photographs into painting but now I play around with the photos so I can put more of myself into the creative process. After that, I use manipulated images for the paintings. Yeah, I think I’m embracing more playfulness because I feel art should be fun. Most times, I don’t plan each painting, I don’t always get the theme but in the process I just relate more meanings to it.

Is your art keen on liberating women in Tanzania against social norms?

When I began, that wasn’t the motivation. It was just creating and expressing myself freely but I guess that is one of the things that adds on how people perceive my work. And that has a bit influenced me to continue focusing on women because I’m so keen on seeing a society where women are treated better. Being able to use my art to speak out that message is very apparent for women, it’s a lovely thing but it’s a secondary reason.

Sungi Mlengeya artwork

Photo Credit: Nigel Glasgow

Tell me about your exhibition ‘(Un)choreographed’

So I love to dance. I feel so good when I dance. I feel like I’m always dancing because when a good song comes up, I will be the first person to stand even though in nature I’m a bit shy and quiet. I have been doing several photoshoots for various works but in every shoot, I end up having some dance poses. I was looking for a theme and a friend of mine told me, “Why don’t you do something about dance, you are always dancing anyway” and it sounded like a good idea. So I brought together all those photographs from previous years and then did some shoot relating to dance and made several paintings from these photographs.

The exhibition is acknowledging the dance moments in my life and then hoping to inspire the viewers to take a moment to celebrate life with dance. I can also relate to dance in real life because my dancing take up spaces and in life we need space for ourselves, space for autonomy to make our decision and I think it’s a basic right. I also relate the movement in dance to a movement in life, taking actions in whatever that you think is important like being committed to your steps despite society. Yeah— so I think I relate those things to dance. Also, there is an idea that a super woman should take care of children, have a job, have a side hustle to make money, do domestic work and all these things but you know, we also need to relax, so it’s a reminder for women to be calm and enjoy life.

Image courtesy of the artist.

The Punk Rock Electronica of Uganda's Ecko Bazz

We talk to the Kampala-based rapper about his debut album Mmaso and its forward-thinking sound.

Ecko Bazz, the immensely talented 34-year-old Ugandan rapper, is finally having the time of his life. As he goes from stage to stage across central and Eastern Europe, performing to eager crowds enveloped by his cathartic performances, there is a sense that his mission is beginning to take shape. ''I do music to express what's inside me for the world to see," he says, "money has no value beyond paper and digits—I don't need a new car as much as I need to give value for what's real to me".

There is no doubting this Kampala-based rapper's sense of his own talent, neither here nor on his debut album Mmaso, which surfaced this spring on Ugandan underground label Hakuna Kulala. It is ferocious punk rock electronica MC'd by a voice that evokes the religious incantations of a doomy firebrand—a demonic dancehall toaster blasting threats around a mesmerising kick drum, double, sometimes triple time over the beat.

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Photo Credit: Damilare Kuku

Damilare Kuku on How Real Life Inspired Her Hit Novel ‘Nearly All The Men in Lagos Are Mad’

OkayAfrica spoke to author Damilare Kuku about her salient breakout novel ‘Nearly All The Men in Lagos Are Mad.’

Damilare Kuku is new to Nigeria’s literary scene. But her short story collection, Nearly All The Men in Lagos Are Mad, came with a buzz. Released in October 2021, the book is a collection of twelve salient tales of young Nigerians in Lagos. Capturing the complexion of the city, it grapples with themes like love, sex, deceit, infidelity, companionship, and heartbreak.

The characters in Nearly All The Men in Lagos Are Mad are women. However, they are not just any kind of women. They are people with whom Kuku shares certain connections with.

Some of these women are friends, close acquaintances, and relatives. "One of the aims of my work as a creative artist is bringing human beings closer, especially women," Kuku told OkayAfrica. "Because women need to know that whatever they are going through, they are not alone. There are other people with the same thing happening to them."

Kuku, who loved reading books as a child, grew up between Lagos and Ile-Ife. Before her debut novel became a hit, Damilare played roles in movies. She’s made appearances in Africa Magic's television series Unbroken and Nollywood blockbusters like The Set-Up (2019), Chief Daddy (2018), and Love is War (2019). As her writing career enjoys attention and success, she landed her most important Nollywood role yet — in the Biodun Stephen-directed drama The Wildflower, released in May.

OkayAfrica caught up with Kuku on Zoom to talk about this anthology work, its inspiration, and her most important role in Nollywood yet.

Damilare Kuku book

How did you come up with the title?

The title of the novel came to me after a prayer session. I'm an unapologetic child of God, which means I rely heavily on God. I was actually in between projects and remembered I was in my one-room apartment in Yaba, Lagos — a very cute little place. I liked it, and I was so proud of the space.

Whenever I am not working, I pray. Somehow, somewhere, I was praying, inspiration came and was like, "how about you write a novel titled Nearly All The Men in Lagos Are Mad?" It wasn't even the inspiration for the stories; it was only the title. So immediately, I sent the title to a very well-known Nollywood actor's assistant. I never got a response, which discouraged me a bit, but I thought maybe it wasn't the right time, so I let it go. This was in 2019. A year later, I submitted a book to my publisher. This was the publisher who later published Nearly All The Men in Lagos Are Mad, and they were like we see potential, and we'd love you to come in for a meeting. So I went in for a meeting and they wanted to sign me on the spot.

Your book deals with themes like deceit, companionship, infidelity, social class, friendship, and heartbreak. Was there any of these themes you wanted readers to pay more attention to?

All stories in the novel are as personal as they can be. I don't have a story in the book, but each story was carefully written, which is interesting because I had all of these things written out, hoping anybody reading the book would get the message. When the message was clear, it was pretty comforting. Every particular story was of clear intention. The same thing with any of my work has always been clear. I'm always delighted when people see my message's clarity. Each story is a love letter to some woman I know.

In the story “Beard Gang” from Nearly All The Men in Lagos Are Mad, you explored how Gay men use marriage to straight women to conceal and hide their sexual orientation. Do you think Nearly All The Men in Lagos helped in any way to pinpoint how this is problematic?

Firstly LGBTQ+ community is very precious, and I'm cautious with what I say. I believe my work mirrors what is going on in the society. Take from it what you will. I tell most people I'm not here to educate you, and I'm more of a timekeeper. That's what I am as a writer. I'm saying this is what is happening. As Damilare, I believe people should be who they want to be. People should learn to accept people for who they are. That's my phenomenon; that is my theory about life. When a person shows you who they are, accept them, but on the other hand, I'm not doing that in this book. I'm simply saying that this is where our society is. Read it and then take from it what you will.

Because it would be foolhardy of me to say this is wrong or right. I'm not here to teach anybody, I'm just here to mirror the society and say how it is. I've had many reporters ask me what my view on queer people is. I don't have an opinion, and that's not because I'm trying to play it safe, but this is what society is.

Damilare Kuku green shirt

"I'm very intentional with my work, and I feel like, as a woman, I can only share stories about what it feels like to be a woman," Damilare Kuku said.

Photo Credit: Damilare Kuku

Let’s talk about the theme of sex. Why was it so essential to the stories being told in your novel?

For me, it was the characters telling their stories, and I can remember older people who had read the book who called me and said, "Is this what is happening now?" and I said yes. I told them it was different from their time when women were very conservative about their sexual life and sexuality. Nowadays, if a woman consents to sex, she's doing it of her own free will. So is that necessarily a good or a bad thing? Then again, it is not my place because if I pass judgment as a writer, I'm not doing my job telling the story. It is left to the readers to make with it what they will. I remember I did an interview a while ago and the interviewer and critic called NALMILAM not too far from pornography, and I laughed. Similarly, the book is dedicated to my mom Oluremi Abake. She started reading the book, but she also says the sex talk is a bit too much for her. But I feel like it's a normal phenomenon; young people living in Lagos are having sex, so why sugar coat it?

Was there any story in Nearly All The Men in Lagos Are Mad that was tedious or mentally draining to write?

The only thing that was quite tedious was emotions. So when my friends — the inspirations behind the stories — went through what they went through, I related as a listener. To write about their experiences, you have to become them. So I found myself being them. Sometimes I would even cry. In the story "Ode-plus complex," the main character (Jide) was a family member's experience. I became the character to understand what they went through, which helped me as an actor. It was very therapeutic.

Let's talk about your latest role in The Wildflower. Share with me what it was like to play the role

As I said, I'm very intentional with my work, and I feel like, as a woman, I can only share stories about what it feels like to be a woman, either through what friends have been through or what I know someone else has gone through. I can tell what other women go through because I am one myself, so when I got the role in The Wildflower, after several auditions, I was very excited. I wanted to tell the story of women and what they go through, abuse in the workplace and many girls go through that. They are being marginalized. Women go through a lot, and most times, some people who do these things to us don't think they've abused the woman.

In The Wildflower, my character was abused by her boss, and there was a scene after the abuse where he said to her, "If only you've been a little bit more cooperative..." and I believe most men think like this. They think, "I didn't rape you — we had sex." But no, it's rape. I told you "no." You didn't listen and went ahead to do what you wanted. When someone says "no," no should mean no. I have often heard some ridiculous views like, "when an African woman says no, she means maybe."

We are here in a society where men don't respect boundaries. They don't respect personal space, and they think it's okay to touch a girl because she's wearing a short skirt. I read a review about The Wildflower from a popular site, and the reviewer said, "absolutely not recommended because abuse has been talked about," and I actually wish I could talk to the person and say, "just because abuse has been talked about many times, doesn't mean it shouldn't be explored."


The 4 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Mr Eazi x MIchael Brun, Gyakie, Flvme, and Asari Music.

Every week, we highlight the top releases through our best music of the week column. Here's our round-up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks.

If you like these music lists, you can also check out our Best Songs of the Month columns following Nigerian, Ghanaian, East African and South African music.

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