The 2014 Bayimba Festival: An explosion of all things Art and Culture
The only way someone would describe this year’s Bayimba festival as boring or underwhelming is if they spent the 3 day fiesta hurdled up in cave in the middle of nowhere. I on the other hand along with several hundred other people knew that the National Theatre was the place to be from 19th to 21st September. Every square inch of the theatre inside and out was ripe and bursting with a display of artistic ingenious. Within a few minutes of walking through the entrance I was already sure that the 2000/= that paid for my ticket was used up because I was getting more than I had paid for.
Every day of the festival, the open space was lined with tens of booths filled with Afro-centric merchandise being sold and displayed. The array of clothes, shoes, bags, bracelets, household ornaments was rich and bountiful in color and character. An impressive sight when one took into account the fact that almost all of the items were handmade by the men and women selling the items. Artistic ingenious I tell you. Trust me when I say that walking away from several booths empty handed was the hardest thing some of us had to do. (Which explains why I accidentally bought a quirky funk filled bag designed like a cheerful owl from Violet and Christine the owners of the ‘Artland’ five minutes after I arrived.)
It wasn’t just African crafts that got my attention; I saw some of the most interestingly spray painted shirts and hats at the ‘Destreet Art’ booth. And a few feet from that I couldn’t resist the urge to buy a few Uganda themed postcards from the ‘Art Punch Studio’ booth. Postcards made with photographs taken of a Uganda that is free and beautiful and wild.
Our artistic pallets were spoilt for choice and the festival did well to gorge our eclectic appetites with photo exhibitions in the foyer, vocal training workshops, and fashion shows in the open space. Did I mention poetry and comic acts in the auditorium? I took a quick peep into the auditorium and for about 30 minutes, I was wiping tears away from gut wrenching laughter thanks to the Punch Liners Comedy crew.
The art was even more than Ugandan homegrown. One of the film shown was the 95 minute film, Touki Bouki by the late Djibril Diop Mambety of Senegal made in 1973. It had the hall quite enthralled with its slow and quietly heavy depiction of the influence of French colonization and the bitter sweet of rejection of love.
Clearly, spending the whole day at the festival was not a farfetched occurrence. With so many things to do, watch, and most importantly for any festival, eat. As soon as you stood on the theatre foyer, the scent of smoked and fried goodness met you. Following the scent would land you on the upper terrace where everything we love as Ugandans was in plenty of supply. Typically this entails the notorious ‘rolex’ ‘roasted goat meat’ and ‘local food.’ Wooden planks were sprawled on the terrace with range of cushioning so people could sit while they ate or just sit for the sake of it. This lounge area had the DJs scratching out their favorite playlists for whoever was around. At no extra charge.
See the Official Trailer of the Discover Uganda TV Show here.
So while the day’s activities were primed with the above kind of entertainment and distractions, the night was something else. The booths were still around for the night shoppers, but the two stages were lit up and poised for concerts and the silent disco was a go. I followed the trail of rainbow fairy lights outside the auditorium and found myself standing outside the dance floor. The silent disco had just started and all I need to do was pay an extra 2000/= to get in and groove. Thankfully the space was heavily boarded up from curious eyes because when I got in my first thought was ‘I can’t dance in silence like this. I’ll look crazy.’ But with self-consciousness set aside and a set of headphones with ‘Aye’ by Davido blaring into my ears I was good to go. After a while any feelings of shyness were extricated by a shared acknowledgement all the strangers had that we were sharing one moment and one song. That was of course only if your movements were in the same rhythm.
Like I mentioned before, something happened to the stage at night. For just 2000/= entrance, we all got served up with first class performances by Uganda’s finest. Sandra, Sifa Kelele, Henry Tigan and so many more were featured acts starring on the Bayimba stage. Ruyonga reminded us that nobody can do it like RU! And Maddox drove his fans insane with a flawless performance that created a ripple of happy sweaty, dreadlocked trains running through the grounds.
Faisal Kiwewa, the artistic director of the Bayimba international festival of the arts wrote that “the products of our creative thinking deserve recognition and respect.” And oh my, was it received in heaps and waves for 3 whole days. The picture of people celebrating the arts with such exuberance, energy and ardent appreciation must be enjoyed if not just once every year. Thank you Bayimba for an awesome September, see you next year.