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Bridging funding challenges between artistes, their dreams

Musicians Kenneth Mugabi and Herman Ssewanyana perform on stage during the Teri Mubi album launch of Afrigo Band at Hotel Africana, in Kampala. several artistes and creatives have great ideas that do not come to fruition due to financial shortfalls. PHOTO BY Edgar R. Batte

The creative industry in Uganda is still viewed as ‘very risky’ by commercial banks in terms of accessing credit. But artistes like other businesses need money to finance their growth plans.

The creative industry in Uganda is still viewed as ‘very risky’ by commercial banks in terms of accessing credit. But artistes like other businesses need money to finance their growth plans. Edgar R. Batte explains how artistes have turned to creating an Art Fund to fulfil their dreams.

“In our kind of trade, it is very hard to get loans because there is nothing you can submit as collateral. It is easier to apply for a grant that can help you in your work. With our banking and microfinance system, it is hard to access a loan based on the art other than what you can attach like a house which is not in any way related to your trade,” explains comedian Pablo, real name Kenneth Kimuli.

Art Fund

Eron Ntuulo-Matovu, a lead actress with theatre outfit Bakayimbira Dramactors, made it early to the launch of Kuonyesha Art Fund which aims at supporting artists to improve the quality of arts in a way that enhances the meaningful influence and participation of art and artistes in issues shaping society and public life in Uganda today.

Fun Factory actress Everlin Kemizinga and actor Dickson Zizinga during a comedy skit at their weekly Thursday show at Uganda National Cultural Centre. Photo by EDGAR R. BATTE.

Kuonyesha is a Swahili word that means show.

“I write and direct stage and television works. I am here because I want to apply. I have scripts that I have written and I need assistance. I feel they are good scripts but I need a hand because it is not very easy to come up with a movie or play. So I would like to know what they really want and get funds to enable my projects work,” Ntuulo explains.

Andrew Ssebaggala, the production manager, Uganda National Cultural Centre (UNCC) where the launch of the programme was held, says any Art Fund is a welcome initiative because several artistes and creatives have great ideas that do not come to fruition due to financial shortfalls.

He adds, “So, I am confident Kuonyesha is going to help artistes take their projects to the next level once they apply, ask questions and hopefully we shall see more high-value productions and artworks.”

To multi-media artiste, Xenson Samson Ssenkaaba, funding in the art sector is much-needed in Uganda as a way of bolstering artistes to continuously innovate and produce.

“Production is a series of little steps and every step is relevant. Such a fund helps facilitate production which is part of the process. For me, that is where it starts. It involves creativity,” he observes.

Funding troubles

Filmmaker Nathan Magoola conquers. He quit his day-job at Fenon Entertainment to concentrate on his passion of making films.

“With the money I have, I can produce two films. If I can get this money, I can produce another or two. As artists, we are always creating but many times we need money.”

He further argues, “So every once in a while, we squeeze from whatever sources we can get the money for work from which we don’t realise a return on investment. So Kuonyesha frees our money source to take care of our families and at the same time be able to create artistic work.”

Dancer Prisca Atite believes art funds and support towards artistes have a social benefit. That way, she argues, the community is able to benefit and improve.

“I will apply to push my project called Voices, a gender based project focusing on prevention of Gender Based Violence (GBV) using dance and music to communicate to audiences. We collect stories from communities and share them with the public as part of spreading awareness. We are using dance not only as entertainment but also as a source of education and building team work,” Atite explains.

Afrigo Band leader and musician Moses Matovu performs on stage during the Teri Mubi album launch at Hotel Africana in Kampala, recently. Photo by EDGAR R. BATTE


Kuonyesha targets artistes from a spectrum of genres; visual artists who can paint, sculpt, do fashion, weaving, woodcutting and printing then literature arts that includes publishing, audio-visual artists into graphics and animation, dance and music artists, those in theatre and film, folklore or spoken word, art research and a combination of art disciplines.

“Through the Art Fund, we will show, depict, highlight, elevate, spotlight, support and celebrate the arts in Uganda, starting with the three locations of Kampala, Karamoja and Gulu,” explains Elizabeth Mbabazi, the programme associate at Kuonyesha which is managed by CivSource Africa with support from its partners Stichting DOEN and Robert Bosch Foundation.

The application call will be open from November 20, 2019 through to January 20, 2020 by visiting or picking forms at different points.

“My role at 32° East is community coordination. It is one of the places where people can get application forms and register for the fund. It is interesting that the funders have chosen to create a fund that is locally based. It is one of the simplest application forms. Others ask for a lot of details and some people are put off,” singer and recycle artist Sandra Suubi observes.

How will artistes gain from the Art Fund?

As a person who works with creatives, she also notes the fund helps someone have a starting point.

“Creatives need it more than ever. This year being one where we are holding the K’la Public Art Festival at 32 degrees then the Kampala Art Biennale, it is interesting that there is a fund that is being accessed now for people not only in Kampala but outside the city. So the art community will come to work together,” she argues.

“I decided to be more into writing this year, doing movies and television series so I think I need the money to realise my artistic dreams. Generally, we need funding as artists and we need guidance. The programme has also brought us together. I am excited to meet fellow writers, actresses and actors,” Ntuulo also observes.

How Pablo will use Fund 

Pablo is optimistic that if considered for the fund, Tebere Arts Foundation will support emerging artists with their craft because most of them, after graduation have nothing to do, with no space to absorb them.

“We help them to invest in what they have majored in by creating spaces, for example, connecting them to the Kampala International Theatre festival which gives them an opportunity to work on their craft, to put it in action.”

The comedian is using Pablo Live Limited to address reproductive health issues, majoring in HIV/Aids. He adds that Pablo Live is helping young people, especially those who are HIV positive and are interested in the arts, make a living through the different forms of art, for example public speaking, comedy as well as fighting the stigma.

What is Kuonyesha Art Fund?

Kuonyesha is one of the few initiatives supporting artists. It is a local arts initiative under the auspices of Civ Source Africa, an independent non-profit advisory organisation that seeks to refine the practice and footprint of philanthropy in Africa, for authentic civic engagement.


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