First, let me introduce you to the crew:
We were greeted at Entebbe Airport around midnight, Jake and Grace led the way to the Mutati they had rented for the night. Mutati is a Ugandan taxi van. ‘We’ll take the new highway, it’s not finished yet, but everyone uses it’.
Neon lights and creative road side shop signs led the bumpy ride to The Villa, my home for the next week. The Villa is home to Boutiq Foundation, a community run creative arts hub based in the heart of Kampala. Their mission is to facilitate residents in their creative and cultural endeavours, and I was feeling really bloody lucky to be welcomed into their world.
Next day was a bit a blur. After a fairly slow start and some fresh mangoes in the morning, we went on a market mission: Fabric and Paint. It was here that we were first introduced to the word ‘Muzungo’ (white person), which from this point on became an almost constant echo of our trip.
So there we were, eight Muzungo’s on fairly simple mission in one of Kampala’s busiest markets on the day before the eve of Christmas. Needless to say, bustling would be an understatement. I couldn’t help but feel a sweet sense of nostalgia for the chaos of the moment.
After purchasing our weight in multicoloured textiles and a hefty market lunch, Jake and I split with Ian to hunt for paint. And, somewhere amid the madness, we found Spyda.
Spyda MC is the man behind Kampala’s Ghetto to Ghetto tours, an initiative that brings artists from a spectrum of disciplines into the ghettos of the city to celebrate creativity and inspire the youth. Spyda is also part of Nilotika Cultural Ensemble, led by Jajja Kalanda, rastafari and highly skilled tailor.
Which brings us to day 3.
We called over three Boda Boda’s, Uganda’s swiftest mode of transport - man on motorbike - hopped on with our loot from the day before, three bodies per bike (littlest crew members Lily and Viola included) and went on our way to ‘The Centre’ home of Nilotika. We were greeted by the rest of the ensemble and welcomed into Jajja’s atelier, where we took turns to place orders and take measurements for some new garms.
Now it was time to paint. I was introduced to Sheriff Skool, member of local graffiti crew Monk 256 to exchange some sketches before heading off to Kinandongo ghetto for a collaboration mural. What I experienced next might find it’s place into one of the most humbling experiences of my life thus far. Upon arrival to the ghetto, Spyda told us head downs and follow single file, so we did, all the way through the thin pathways and mounds of litter, over the polluted waterways and to the wall. Along the way we seemed to have doubled in numbers, joined by children of all ages who wanted to see what we were getting up to. The wall was on the side of house, facade open to a polluted river that marked the back end of the ghetto. The house adjacent had the radio blasting on repeat ‘Feliz Navidad’, in true Christmas spirit, the kids who had joined us knew the lyrics word for word.
While Jake, Grace, Pete and I had been painting, Daan, Joris, Nathan and Rey (three Dutch sound engineers and a Congolese techno producer) had gone to fetch a goat for Christmas lunch. I’ll leave out the details but here is a photo. No vegans in Uganda, sorry not sorry.
Fiona and the rest of the crew spit roasted the whole goat over a wood fire after marinating it in Papaya overnight. In the six hours it took to cook, the day went on like any other and Lily and Viola coloured in some butterflies to pass the time and lighten up the mood post goat massacre.
We spent the next few days on (and off) the road oggling at elephants, baby giraffes and lions on safari in an open top van. It all felt a bit like a Jurassic Park theme park. The hippos were pretty cool though.
After the Safari we had one night back at Boutiq, where I met Lebon. Lebon is a rapper and fashion designer in Kongoloko, he had heard I was coming with my kit and wanted some ink. I traded a tattoo for a jacket before waking up at 5am for a ten hour drive, across the equator and down to Lake Bunyoni to spend New Years.
Lake Bunyoni is close to the border of Rwanda, in South-West Uganda. We were staying in geo-pods run on solar power on one of the islands in the lake, meaning candle light after sun down and forced us to to actually converse with one another- which ultimately ended in us all falling asleep before midnight on New Years Eve. Having said that, we started the last day of the year with a boat trip to a neighbouring islands to make crafts with the wife and daughters of Nkwasibe Appolo - the carpenter who built the geo-pods in which we were staying. Their hospitality extended to a full lunch and a visit from a pygmy before we were sent home with a chicken.
I was too impressed by the pygmy to take a portrait, so I'll leave the chronicle here. Needless to say, I had a fookin' great time and have left longing to go back - until next time, Africa.
/////////// Text, photos and illustrations by Tallulah Maskell-Key.