The 'Iron Lady' Of Uganda On Preparing For Alien Attack And Political Change

Meet the Iron Lady of Uganda, the 26-year-old grad student running for office in tomorrow's election.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Lenora Brown

Last week a Ugandan campaign poster with the slogan, “If aliens attack, I am ready,” went viral, causing people worldwide to speculate on the candidate’s sanity. Okayafrica reached out to the woman behind it — a 26-year-old Makerere University grad student Doreen Nyanjura who is running for LC5 Women Councillor—to find out why she is ready to fight extra-terrestrial beings.

Turns out the activist and author is anything but a crank. Nyanjura broke down the meaning during an early morning phone interview: “It’s just a slogan to portray who Nyanjura is,” she began. “[The alien reference] is just to portray the iron lady in me. I am just talking about anyone who does not wish the Makerere community good. Anyone who is trying to exploit the students and the community in Makerere.”

The outspoken leader has experienced police brutality on several occasions, and even revealed how one policewoman slapped her. “I had to slap her back,” she shared. An arrest in 2014 at Old Kampala Police Station, stands out to the student leader because authorities denied her food and access to lawyers.

Hailing from Western Uganda and the eldest of six children, Nyanjura spoke warmly of her family despite some initial resistance from her parents. “Every time I’m arrested, [my siblings] will be at the police station for me, they’ll bring food. They are very caring,” she said.

The FDC is Uganda’s largest opposition party. The message of change and criticism of the Museveni regime, notably in the 2012 book, Is it the Fundamental Change, earned Doreen the reputation of being tough. “For a very long time, I have been preaching the gospel of change. I have been longing for change in this country, hence the [nickname], the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Preacher” she said.

It’s her hobby that gives insight on her nicknames and political approach: ”When I’m not preaching, I’m reading a book. I love political biographies and autobiographies,” she said, adding: “[Malcolm X] is my hero, he inspired me to be an iron lady. I love Winnie Mandela and Patrice Lumumba because of their radicalness.”

Doreen’s experience is not just limited to the university campus. As the National Coordinator for the National Association of the Unemployed, Doreen is passionate about working to help graduates land jobs. At least 62 percent of Uganda’s youth population is unemployed, according to Action Aid, although other sources quote the figure as 83 percent.

From supporting students doing business on campus, who faced the threat of being kicked out, to peacefully protesting with support staff and teachers over lack of pay, Doreen is involved in campus affairs. “I’m in this race to protect the interest of such people," she said, "So when the aliens come and threaten to get rid of these people, I will be ready for them and I will not let that happen.”

On February 18, Ugandans will go to the polls and vote for the next President. The International Relations and Diplomacy student is vocal about the need for change, saying of the detained opposition leader Dr. Kizza Besigye: “I’m encouraging Ugandans to be ready for change, I’m encouraging Ugandans not to be intimidated by anyone because this is their country, I’m urging all Ugandans to vote for Dr. Besigye.”

The Tony Robbins fan talks like the motivational speaker would, with optimistic utterances: “I really believe this is my destiny. Even when I say: ‘let me just give myself a break,’ the prevailing conditions can’t let me do that.”

It’s clear the iron lady is confident in her call for change on a national and community level. Just to make it clear, Doreen says: “Me I’m a Makererian for life.”

Josephine Opar is a Kenyan-born arts & culture writer, womanist and magazine hoarder. You can keep up with her on Twitter at @viewfinderSS.

Artwork: Barthélémy Toguo Lockdown Selfportrait 10, 2020. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Goes to Paris in 2021

The longstanding celebration of African art will be hosted by Parisian hot spot Christie's for the first time ever.

In admittedly unideal circumstances, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair will be touching French soil in 2021. The internationally celebrated art fair devoted to contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora will be hosted in Paris, France from January 20 - 23. With COVID-19 still having its way around the globe, finding new ways to connect is what it's all about and 1-54 is certainly taking the innovative steps to keep African art alive and well.
In partnership with Christie's, the in-person exhibits will take place at the auction house's city HQ at Avenue Matignon, while 20 international exhibitors will be featured online at And the fun doesn't stop there as the collaboration has brought in new ways to admire the talent from participating galleries from across Africa and Europe. The fair's multi-disciplinary program of talks, screenings, performances, workshops, and readings are set to excite and entice revelers.

Artwork: Delphine Desane Deep Sorrow, 2020. Courtesy Luce Gallery

The tech dependant program, curated by Le 18, a multi-disciplinary art space in Marrakech medina, will see events take place during the Parisian run fair, followed by more throughout February.
This year's 1-54 online will be accessible to global visitors virtually, following the success of the 2019's fair in New York City and London in 2020. In the wake of COVID-19 related regulations and public guidelines, 1-54 in collaboration with Christie's Paris is in compliance with all national regulations, strict sanitary measures, and security.

Artwork: Cristiano Mongovo Murmurantes Acrilico Sobre Tela 190x200cm 2019

1-54 founding director Touria El Glaoui commented, "Whilst we're sad not to be able to go ahead with the fourth edition of 1-54 Marrakech in February as hoped, we are incredibly excited to have the opportunity to be in Paris this January with our first-ever fair on French soil thanks to our dedicated partners Christie's. 1-54's vision has always been to promote vibrant and dynamic contemporary art from a diverse set of African perspectives and bring it to new audiences, and what better way of doing so than to launch an edition somewhere completely new. Thanks to the special Season of African Culture in France, 2021 is already set to be a great year for African art in the country so we are excited to be playing our part and look forward, all being well, to welcoming our French friends to Christie's and many more from around the world to our online fair in January."

Julien Pradels, General Director of Christie's France, said, "Christie's is delighted to announce our second collaboration with 1-54, the Contemporary African Art Fair, following a successful edition in London this October. Paris, with its strong links to the continent, is a perfect place for such a project and the additional context of the delayed Saison Africa 2020 makes this partnership all the more special. We hope this collaboration will prove a meaningful platform for the vibrant African art scene and we are confident that collectors will be as enthusiastic to see the works presented, as we are."

Artwork: Kwesi Botchway Metamorphose in July, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery 1957

Here's a list of participating galleries to be on the lookout for:


31 PROJECT (Paris, France)
50 Golborne (London, United Kingdom)
Dominique Fiat (Paris, France)
Galerie 127 (Marrakech, Morocco)
Galerie Anne de Villepoix (Paris, France)
Galerie Cécile Fakhoury (Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire/ Dakar, Senegal)
Galerie Eric Dupont (Paris, France)
Galerie Lelong & Co. (Paris, France / New York, USA)
Galerie Nathalie Obadia (Paris, France / Brussels, Belgium)
Galleria Continua (Beijing, China / Havana, Cuba / Les Moulins, France / San Gimignano, Italy / Rome, Italy)
Gallery 1957 (Accra, Ghana / London, United Kingdom)
Loft Art Gallery (Casablanca, Morocco)

Luce Gallery (Turin, Italy)
MAGNIN-A (Paris, France)
Nil Gallery (Paris, France)
POLARTICS (Lagos, Nigeria)
SEPTIEME Gallery (Paris, France)
This is Not a White Cube (Luanda, Angola) THK Gallery (Cape Town, South Africa) Wilde (Geneva, Switzerland)

For more info visit 1-54

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