Art and Ways of knowing in Uganda

A screening and discussion of two short films developed in response to a

workshop with artists and activists

 Ruth Kelly  (CHR, York) & Director, Patience Nitumwesiga

Communion poster

We are delighted to be opening our Theorising Africa session with a screening, discussion and interview with the Ugandan director, Patience Nitumwesiga, who will be speaking to Ruth Kelly about two short films made in Kampala last year.  The event will take place on 13 February 2018 at the Leeds Humanities Research Institute (LHRI) Seminar Room 1 at 4pm.

This event, which is hosted in collaboration with LUCAS, is open to all and entrance is free.

 

Abstract                                                                                 

In July 2017, a group of academics, artists and activists met in Kampala, Uganda to explore how art could help us imagine and inhabit new ways of being, feeling and knowing, opening space to dream up visions of a more just and sustainable world. The methodology for the research is inspired by the research practice of Boaventura de Sousa Santos and of J.K. Gibson-Graham who have undertaken studies that have questioned dominant paradigms – Western epistemologies and capitalism, respectively – and gone on to develop research and practice uncovering and proposing alternatives – epistemologies of the South and community economies respectively.

Our assumption was that Western epistemologies and dominant paradigms limit what the researcher, practitioner or activist finds important, or even what they are able to know and learn from their interactions with others. In the workshop, the researchers sought to use arts-based practices to disrupt dominant ways of knowing and performing “development,” encouraging participants to explore and articulate the different ways of knowing that they embody, have experienced, or could experience through engagement with the arts. In particular, a session linking traditional and hybrid forms of oral poetry in Uganda helped participants to tap into the cultural heritage of the different language groups represented to explore alternative ways of knowing, being in community and making political interventions. As part of the presentation, I will show and discuss two short films made in response to the workshop: ‘Should I stay or should I go,’ a video collage of performances of a poem by Helena Okiring about diaspora and politics, composed and performed during the workshop in each of the different Ugandan languages that participants spoke, produced by Emilie Flower; and the second, ‘Communion,’ a short film reflecting on performance and reality, written and produced after the workshop by Patience Nitumwesiga.

 

About Ruth Kelly & Patience Nitumwesiga

Ruth Profile photoRuth Kelly’s doctoral research (Centre for Applied Human Rights, York) explores the potential for art and narrative to help communities and activists articulate alternative approaches to development. In the past, Ruth has worked with ActionAid, Oxfam, UNDP and the European Commission, on jobs and industrial policy, international trade and tax policy, land rights, and programme implementation.

 

Patience headshotPatience Nitumwesiga is a writer/director whose play monsters premiered in March 2017 at Le Cartel festival in Burkina Faso. It has been translated into French. The play also received a reading at the BIBU festival in Sweden. She has been trained at the famous Prospero performing arts centre in Sweden and Denmark, and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Drama from Makerere University, Kampala.

Patience has written both for stage and for TV, having attended the renowned Hollywood Director Mira Nair’s Maisha film lab (screenwriting) in 2009 and 2016. She was a writer, and assistant script editor for the TV Series Yat MaditYat Madit is produced by Media Focus on Africa and Trivision Uganda, two of East Africa’s leading producers in social awareness content. She also worked with Rafiki Theatre from 2010-2012, writing and acting with German director Claus Schrowange.

In May 2014, Patience was an Assistant director for the pilot project of the TV-adapted Rock point 256 seriesIn September 2015, she was a 1st assistant director for the Yat Madit seriesIn June 2016, she enrolled as a creative directing apprentice with Silent Voices Uganda’s Ga-AD! Production, as a step towards her Creative Directing career.

In 2012, she directed Everybody Needs an Electrician, a short documentary that she developed at the Maisha documentary lab. She has worked as an assistant director, researcher and logging assistant for the documentary Somebody Clap for Me. She was an associate producer and video coach on Sauti, a documentary that has graced a number of international festivals since 2016.

Nitumwesiga was discovered in 2012 as a photographer by ICT Creatives, and she went on to work on photography campaigns for NGOs, private contractors and individual projects. This birthed her ventures into art and design.  She was also the photographer for Yat Madit production, 2015-2016. She was the production designer for the short film Askari, 2017

She is a published poet, featured in anthologies like Painted Voices Volume 2 by FEMRITE, A Thousand Voices Rising, by BNN, and Reflections: An Anthology of New Work, by African women poets by Lynne Reinner publishers.

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Jane Plastow: Stiwanism and Gendered Identities in Jinja (Uganda)

We are pleased to announce that Jane Plastow will open our next set of seminars on the theme of African Feminisms with a paper co-authored with Katie McQuaid, the abstract which may be found below.

The seminar will take place on Monday,  13 February 2017 at the Leeds Humanities Research (LHRI) Institute Seminar Room 1 at 5pm. All are welcome and entrance is free.

 

AbstractUntitled

This paper concerns the ethnographic and theatre-based work of Katie McQuaid and Jane Plastow in a working class district of Jinja, Uganda, over two years between 2014 and 2016. Working in the context of entrenched urban poverty alongside the community we sought to develop understanding of the shifting nature of gendered, intergenerational identities in an East African city and how men, women and youth navigate their daily realities and sustain their future aspirations. We are concerned here to explicate our changing understandings in relation to African and western feminisms, particularly Stiwanism, over the course of the work. 

We explore the relative silencing of women, culturally, educationally and structurally in this community, and how, combining ethnographic research and Frierean-inspired community theatre, we sought to open up spaces in which women felt confidence to participate, at first in single sex spaces,  and later in whole community debate, as equals with their men. The focus of the paper is on how we came to find an engagement with the concept of Stiwanism hugely useful in conceptualising our long term process of working alongside men and women in search of a ‘plentiude of praxis’: strengthening and promoting an urban community’s capacity to unite across social barriers in recognising systemic injustices and inequalities, and challenging these through community-led interventions in pursuit of common social justice outcomes. 

We conclude by raising our on-going issues with Stiwanism in relation to its capacity to envisage how men can be supported in challenging patriarchal practices, and how women can negotiate competing aspects of ethnic identity and modern aspiration, whilst simultaneously resisting essentialist narratives that confine their voices and activity.

About Katie McQuaid and Jane Plastow

Jane Plastow is primarily an Africanist with special interests in African theatre, African literature, education, development studies and politics. She is also concerned with women’s studies in Africa and worldwide with Theatre for Development. She has particularly strong links with East Africa and the Horn of Africa; especially Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, in all of which she has worked in recent years. Plastow also works as a theatre director, usually but not exclusively in the area of African theatre, and teach across a range of courses dealing with contemporary theatrical practice.

Katie McQuaid is an anthropologist currently working on the INTERSECTION project, researching intergenerational justice, environmental responsibility, climate change and sustainability in Uganda, combining social science and arts-based methods (fieldwork Jan-Nov 2015). Her wider work focuses upon violence, humanitarianism and human rights amongst refugees from violent conflict. She conducted two years’ ethnographic fieldwork in Uganda (2011-2012) with refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, considering how violence and human rights are experienced and articulated amongst those living within humanitarian regimes. This research explores the practice of Congolese human rights defenders and the complex persecution and marginalisation of sexual minorities.

Liberating the Female Voice from the Patriarchal Order of the South African Pastoral Tradition: Anne Landsman’s The Devil’s Chimney by Ruth Daly

6308201._UY200_The next Finding Africa seminar, hosted in association with the University of Leeds’ Centre for African Studies (LUCAS), will be on 24 May 2016. Ruth Daly will present a reading of Anne Landsman’s The Devil’s Chimney in her paper titled ‘Liberating the Female Voice from the Patriarchal Order of the South African Pastoral Tradition’.

The seminar will take place on 24 May 2016 at 4pm in Seminar Room 1 of the Leeds Humanities Research Institute (physical address: 31-2 Clarendon Place, Leeds). Entrance is free and all are welcome. Continue reading

Elinor Rooks to speak on The Radical Developmental Politics of Bessie Head’s A Question of Power

Bessie Head
Bessie Head

The next event on the Finding Africa calendar is a seminar by Elinor Rooks (University of Leeds). Rooks will give a paper on “Cattle, Gardens and the Madness of Power: The Radical Developmental Politics of Bessie Head’s A Question of Power” in Seminar Room 008 of the Berrick Saul Building at the University of York at 5pm on 30 September 2015.

*A podcast of this seminar is now available here: Finding Africa Podcast. Continue reading

Arthur Rose on “Dwelling in Triomf; or Building the Infrastructure for Postapartheid Dasein”

triomf The next seminar in the Philosophy and Literature stream of Finding Africa entitled, Dwelling in Triomf; or Building the Infrastructure for Postapartheid Dasein will be given by Dr. Arthur Rose.

Rose recently completed his PhD thesis, Cynical Cosmopolitans? Borges, Beckett, Coetzee, at the University of Leeds. It argued that the integration of politics, aesthetics and subjectivity in the late works of these writers may best be understood through the lens of Ancient Cynicism. He is currently thinking about the thematic and structural use of strike in English, French and Spanish mining literatures.

The seminar will be at 6pm in the BS/008 seminar room of the Berrick Saul Building at the University of York on 8 June 2015. Entrance is free and all are welcome. Continue reading

Furman and O’Connell on HIV/AIDS, Moral Responsibility, and South African Literature (Rescheduled for 1 June 2015)

hiv-aids Finding Africa is pleased to announce that the theme for the next seminar in the Philosophy and Literature stream will be HIV and AIDS. Katherine Furman, from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences will tackle the controversial question, “Is Thabo Mbeki Morally Responsible for his AIDS Denialism?” Furman’s paper will be followed by a presentation by Dr. Gráinne O’Connell from the University of Sussex on “‘Post-AIDS’ Futures, Global Health Governance and Representations of HIV and AIDS in Post-Apartheid Literary Fiction”. The seminar will take place on 1 June 2015 at 5.30pm in The Treehouse at the University of York’s Berrick Saul Building. The event is both free and open to all. Continue reading

Journalism and Media Studies: Richard Stupart Abstract

The relationship between mass media and African ‘development’ has been an object of critical study for media studies scholars since at least the 1980s. The 1985 Live Aid concert, and the BBC coverage of the Ethiopian famine that inspired it, indicated that media coverage and the ability to mobilize resources for foreign assistance were connected – although this relationship was only beginning to be theorized. In this paper it is argued that two of the most influential models of the media’s power to mobilize assistance that subsequently developed remain under-theorized, and may operate in ways substantially different to their applied conceptions. Further refinement is needed if the role of the media in constructing distant suffering and mobilizing solidarity with those affected by it is to be productively understood. The paradigms of the ‘CNN Effect’ as the power of the media to compel humanitarian action, and ‘compassion fatigue’ as the tendency for audiences to lose empathy for distant victims after over-coverage of their plight have informed a long history of media advocacy related to Africa’s conflicts, famines and disasters. Though forming the conceptual foundation of media strategies ranging from the Kony2012 viral media campaign to the advertising of Oxfam and the United Nations, these theories of media influence are subject to numerous critiques from both more nuanced understandings of media power and actual case appraisals.

Continue reading