The 9th edition of the Bayimba International Festival of the Arts started on Friday with a shortlist of coveted acts from Uganda, across East Africa the continent. This festival is celebrated for its annual arts dynamism and marriage of several art forms beyond just music.
This year again the festival was a flood with numerous arts activities including the much revered Ekyoto which rekindles the traditional pot beer gathering around a fire place. This daily exhibition was accompanied with Ngoma Jam Session (local Kiganda drums and dances), local games like dulu and sonko.
Along with fashion and dance exhibitions, there were visual art showcases like art installation by Wasswa Donald who cottages sacks (obudeeya) packaged with backcloth and leather. This is work off his ongoing exhibition, Zikunta. The whole theatre space was booked for all forms of arts expression that there was no room for wedding meetings and cash pay parking which otherwise have been the face of the theatre.
The green room was ablaze with workshops, including sound engineering workshops and the main auditorium afloat with cinematic relish of both local and continental films. South African financial film Nothing for Mahala showcase along with Nes G Nsamba’s Silent Depression among others. Faisal Ddamba performed an expressive dance piece and choreographed performances by Vizuri Dance Crew (UG) who tackled circumcision from Mbale region with such arty form.
On the main stage, revered acts like Irene Namubiru who took audiences down memory lane with her older tracks, Mo Roots who brought a fusion of pop, rock, electronic fusions on stage and Jemimah Sanyu who tore the audience with electrifyingly energetic performances were female forces to reckon with.
Mathias Walukagga, Willy Mukabya and Ronald Mayinja brought some male adrenalin to Bayimba with sounds of Kadongo Kamu and Afro Pop. Artistes whose music would rarely be appreciated by younger folk was brought to a contemporary space and all performed to live music/bands. Bayimba is a platform for artistes to blossom with their best works on a live stage to multi nationals who come from across the world to enjoy the festival and what Uganda’s arts sector has to offer.
There was poetry with Lantern Meet and Poetry in Session where poets had a joyous time exploring several social affective subjects with word play. Feminists too had a camp to empower women, encouraging them to freely talk about sex, and enjoy body pleasure. They dialogued on body parts and how comfortable they feel in their own skin, following it up with yoga as a health and wellness technique of life.
Fashion designers including BuyiPhillip of Kkoolo designs showed off his work, while there were mediocre designers too whose humble beginnings were encouraging as they were laughable. Some of the pieces showcased at the seeds fashion show on Saturday were wanting, ill of fitting, and too organic that they would pass for only unwearable couture.
Other acts that impressed include Dr Bonne from South Africa who brought Afro Hip hop jams, Kenyan band Gravity, Femme Electronic (Dj Racheal and Dj MaryJo), Magic Horns, a youthful band that literally plays the horn, and Yatatchi band. On the final (Sunday) Winyo from Kenya impressed with Swahili and reggae, while gospel sensation Exodus’s showcase was interrupted when there was a power surge.
American artiste Akua Naru revitalised the audience with a reminder of the beauty of being African. She reminisced her battles being a black woman in America, of the racial differences and the impact on her and the black community. Her electro genius hip hop was dancy and emotional at the same time that Ronald Mayinja was at a loss of the crowd coming after her.
Because of the nature of diversity, the spaces at the theatre have been divided to cater to all forms. Several dance fanatics were looking forward to the silent disco. This program broke down what one would attend when, offering room for choice. Despite the division, there was still conflict for audiences and competition with sound.
Last year, Sheeba Kalungi and Maddox Sematimba were the most sought after acts of the season. Even though Santuri DJ returned to blow the dancers away, there is still talk about how DJ Rachael got everyone on their feet. The acts have been getting better over time, and the number of artistes showcasing multiplying annually.