Month: March 2015

Photo Hunt at the Uganda Museum

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Saturday is a good day for a photo hunt. The museum is full of life with all the visitors streaming in. which made it a good day for my family to tag along for the photo hunt. As they toured around a museum they had not seen in  long time , they were excited about the pleasant new  introductions to the museum. But of course my 8 month old had a better idea ‘ how about i eat some of these collections presented in front of me’. Needless to say, it was such a disappointment to her watering mouth.

From first impression one may not know how many galleries exist in the museum and the variety of displays. I was mesmerized as i went around seeing the different clothing, fishing, musical, cooking, hunting , Presidential cars and house displays. I had a lot to learn about the different tribes in Uganda. It showed me i had limited knowledge about the history of the people that surround me everyday.

We then met up in the office to have an upload and editing session. We initially reviewed the images we had taken and selected the best which we would upload. Some pictures required a retake due to the natural lighting in the museum. Never the less we were able to come up with a set of good images to upload .We added new galleries and sections to the article which made it look more appealing.

A day in the life of a fisherman

Fishermen returning to the landing site with fish

 

I almost returned to bed to wait for rain to subside, when it started raining. But what a weak excuse that would be, standing someone up because of rain. I got an umbrella and walked through it, to the taxi stage.

I was bound for Gaba landing site to find out what a day in the life of a fisherman was like. Often we imagine what the days of successful businessmen, politicians and celebrities, are like. But never the days of fishermen.

I arrived at Gaba landing site shortly after nine O’clock in the morning, to meet Musisi John, a fisherman at the site. I had met him while carrying out research on fishing in Uganda. He was the perfect choice since he resided near Kampala.

He was mending a fish net when I arrived.

‘This is what most fishermen do during day,’ he told me, ‘especially when the fish nets get damaged during fishing trips. Fishermen do not fish during day. Those who do not have nets to repair either go and rest or relax by drinking or playing pool.’

He told me that some people, like the police, take the life of fishermen for idleness and yet when other people are sleeping, fishermen are working.

‘We spend nights at the lake,’ he said. ‘We would return after casting the nets but that would mean using more fuel. If we sleep at the lake, we make two trips instead of four. We move from the site to the lake, in the evening, and come back with the fish in the morning.’

I asked him what they do while at the lake.

‘We sleep,’ he said. ‘We wear jackets to stay warm. There are boards we put in the boats, on which we sleep. Some fishermen even go with mattresses.’

The fishermen return to the landing site from 11:00 am in the morning to sell the fish. Sometimes they do not catch any fish after spending the entire night on the lake.

Musisi took me around the site, showing me what different fishermen were doing. A number of them were mending nets. There are those who were walking around the site, and some who were in bars.

All fish that is delivered at the landing site is auctioned by a selected group of people. They are the only ones who have the right to do this according to the laws on the landing site. Once the fishermen deliver fish, these men who wear white overcoats, begin the job of selling the fish. The fishermen do not sell fish to individuals.
A man taking nile perch to be weighed

The auctioning takes place at the auction table. Fish like tilapia, lung fish, and clarias locally known as “emalle”, are auctioned mostly. The Nile perch is weighed before it is sold. The more kilograms it has, the higher the price.

If the fishermen return to the site before dawn, the fish is put in freezers. The fishermen are either paid in full for all the fish or in part. They receive the balance later.

Seeing them smile back home after payment would give one the impression that they are enjoying a windfall.

‘It is not all rosy out there,’ Musisi told me. ‘Some times we encounter harsh weather out there. Other times, ships and boats tear our nets. All the fish run away. Some fishermen even steal our nets with all the catch because there is no one to monitor all the nets.’

Fishermen are resilient. They can spend two weeks on the lake, going in the evening and returning in the morning, with empty nets. But they don’t give up. They are always hopeful that the next day will bring something.

Musisi stays with his family in Bunga, Kampala. He arrives at Gaba landing site at 7:00am to begin work. He told me how the lives of fishermen have changed tremendously over time.

‘Being a fisherman is a job these days,’ he said. ‘It wasn’t always the case. Fishermen used to live unsettled lives. It was rare to find one with a permanent home. They would move from one landing site to another. But this has changed. There are more people engaged in fishing now. The landing sites have also grown. They are towns now with a number of services.  There is no need for a fisherman to relocate from one landing site or island to another looking for services they can get at their landing site or island.’

When I asked him how they fund their activities, he said that they use their earnings and savings or work for some people. It is not easy for a fisherman to access credit.

‘Bankers do not understand this business,’ he said. ‘If you tell one that you might not catch fish in two weeks and yet you go to the lake each night, he will withhold the funding and channel it somewhere else. This business always needs a cash injection. A net might cost five hundred thousand Uganda shillings. If you need thirty fish nets, then that is fifteen million. A banker would not release such an amount easily. But still, we work with what we have.’

A day in the life of a fisherman revolves around a lake. Take away the lake and he will look for another water source. Fishermen are survivors. They tame the lake to earn a living. When the lake is polluted or has no fish, they will look for a cleaner water source. But with such measures, the fish become more expensive for us the buyers. That is why we have to be mindful about what we dump in water bodies.

 

Mulumba Ivan Matthias

Musisi John and I

Rose Rwakasisi

Rose Rwakasisi at St. Luke secondary
Rose Rwakasisi is an author of children’s literature, adult fiction and books of biology. I met her at St. Luke School in Kisenyi, where she is a director. She is a teacher of biology who holds a degree in botany and zoology, and a post graduate diploma in education. One would wonder how she became a writer.

‘I was a member of the literature class in my “O” level,’ she told me when we sat down to speak. ‘In HSC, I did Biology with English as a sub. I read a lot. Sometimes I go to places to speak about writing. After introducing myself and telling people what I do, they wonder what I’m doing there. But when I start speaking, they realise that in some ways I know more about writing than the “experts”. Writing is a gift. You do not have to major in the arts to write.’

The story of how she started writing for children has a motherly attachment to it.

‘I could not communicate with my children in my mother tongue,’ she said. ‘I wanted to tell them stories from oral tradition from my culture but they could not understand them. I decided to write these stories down in English and read to them. I would write the stories, read to the children and keep them. I had a pile of them after a while.’

Rwakasisi’s colleague who was familiar with her writing introduced her to fountain publishers which was looking for authors. This led to the publishing her book “How friends became enemies” in 1993, marking the start of her career as a published author. She has written and edited a number of books since, including: “The great escape”, “How rats escaped the trap”, “How goats lost their beautiful tails”, “Gift for the singer”, “Why mother left home”, “Sunshine after rain”, “The old woman and the shell” and many more. Her short stories have appeared in a number of anthologies published by Femrite.

She is a retired teacher now. Before retirement, she taught in a number of schools where she held high positions. She was deputy head teacher at “Old Kampala Secondary School”, “Nakasero Secondary School” and “Kyamate Secondary School”.

She is a curriculum developer for schools, something she says has taken most her time and prevented her from writing more books.

Rwakasisi has not let what she studied subdue her writing talent. She has written for both story lovers and students of biology. She is a testament that irrespective of what you studied, you can still charm the world with your talent.

Rose Rwakasisi and I

Mulumba Ivan Matthias

Evangeline Barongo: an author with a heart for children

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Children’s literature is not something many people give thought to. We rarely read books meant for children until we become parents.

Meeting an author in Uganda who has dedicated her writing to children, is rare. Evangeline Barongo is one such author. She has authored fifteen books, her latest title being “Courageous weaverbird”, published in 2015.

Evangeline Barongo at her office

I was intrigued by her passion to write for children. I asked her what led to the decision to write for children. She told me that she has had a passion for writing since she was a child.  What keeps her writing though, is the desire to preserve our cultures and norms.

In her view, modernity has changed us a lot. We are ashamed of our cultures.

“Someone goes to England for three months and returns with a British accent,” she said. “How is that possible? I am a Munyoro. If I stay in Buganda for five years does that mean that I have forgotten Runyoro? Does my accent change? Someone cannot forget a language they leant in the first five years of their life just like that.”

This in part, explains her commitment to teaching children their norms. She writes stories from oral tradition but with a twist to suit the children. Sometimes she writes new stories.

Her book, “Greedy monkey loses a friend”, is about a friendship between a monkey and a crocodile. It is intended to teach children to share. In the story, the Crocodile brings a monkey fruits. The monkey does not share the fruits with its family. It tells them that it is medicine meant for him.

“When children read this story,” she said, “they learn that it is important to share with other children and not to be greedy.”

Another story, “My name is a street child”, was inspired by an encounter with a street child. The child wanted to read. She approached a reading tent where Barongo and another librarian were in charge. The other librarian chased the girl away because the child was dirty. But Barongo told the girl to seat and gave her a book to read. The girl wanted to take some books. Other people were concerned that she would sell them. Barongo let her take the books provided she would take a bath, first.

She took her to the library from where she had a shower. The girl wore the same dirty dress after the shower. Barongo was forced her to bring her a dress the next day.

When the girl came to the tent, Barongo took her to the library to have a shower and gave her the new dress. People would not tell that it was the street child they had chased the day before, when they returned to the tent.

They developed a friendship with time which led the girl to share her story with Barongo. Barongo was able to convince the girl to return home and leave the streets where life was harsh.

This shows what reading can do for children. If the girl hadn’t shown the desire to read, maybe Barongo would have ignored her. It reaffirms the contribution authors of children’s literature make.

Evangeline Barongo is the chairperson of Uganda Children’s writers and Illustrators Association (UCWIA). She said, one of the challenges the association faces is that few people buy children’s books in Uganda. The other is inadequate funding for the association’s activities. They would have published more books.

She told me that it is easier for some parents to buy mobile phones for their children than to buy books.

“Sitting down to read trains your brain to concentrate,” she said. “Modernity and the gadgets it has brought make it easier for us to perform tasks. But is denies us the chance to concentrate and understand most of them.”

She gave an example of mathematics. If a child has a calculator, it is easier for that child to add two plus two to get four. That child does not have to give the addition some thought. But if the same calculation is illustrated in a book, the child gets a better understanding of the calculation. Take an example of an illustration of the addition of two oranges to two other oranges to get four oranges. The child will understand that better.

I was amazed by Barongo’s zeal. She has been writing for a long time and is still writing more books.

It is important that more writers like Barongo write for children. It is such authors that inspired me to write.

Evangeline Barongo and i

Mulumba Ivan Matthias