Three outstanding Ugandan creative artistes have been honoured for their contribution towards the arts, culture and community service.
Maria Goretti Kyomuhendo, a novelist; Sanaa Gateja, a paper bead visual artist and Kaz Kasozi, a jazz musician, producer, teacher and composer, were honoured at the inaugural Bayimba Honours held at the Lohana Academy in Kololo, Kampala late last month.
Presented by Bayimba Cultural Foundation, the Bayimba Honours recognises private individuals, families, institutions and companies with a consistent record of supporting the arts and culture scene in Uganda.
Kyomuhendo is one of Uganda’s leading novelists. She is a founding member of Femrite, Uganda women writers’ association and publishing house in 1997.
In 2009, Kyomuhendo founded and is now director of the African Writers’ Trust, an organisation that aims to bridge the divide between African writers and publishing professionals living in the diaspora and those in Africa.
Some of her books are The First Daughter (1997), Waiting (2007), and Secrets No More (1999). The latter won Uganda’s National Best Novel of the year award in 1999. Her first novella, Whispers from Vera was published in 2002.
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She has also published a number of children’s books: Different Worlds and short stories. In 2008, she published two children’s stories on HIV/Aids, which are now used as textbooks in primary schools in various African countries. In 2014, she published a writers’ guide titled The Essential Handbook for African Creative Writers.
“We really need support as artistes and cultural practitioners. We don’t make enough money from our literature and art. We urge everybody to support us,” Ms Kyomuhendo said in her acceptance speech.
Sanaa Gateja is an artiste and jeweller, social and cultural entrepreneur with a wealth of experience from the UK’s London College of Art and Design and at the Universita Internazonale Dell’Arte in Florence, Italy.
He started out as an artiste in the 1960s and earned the name “Bead King” from his timely innovation of paper beads out of recycled paper during the 1980s and 90s, working with internally displaced women. His preference for recycled material today resonates with global environmental consciousness.
Gateja’s artwork is described as mixed-media, experimental or abstract art. His pieces emphasise the use of beads, barkcloth and sometimes raffia.
“I work with communities and train people in art and craft. We recycle paper and other materials to create art works. It pleases me to see people earning money from the paper beads,” Gateja said at the awards ceremony.
He is currently the only Ugandan exhibiting at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York, and he has since 1980, exhibited extensively in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, UK, US and Germany.
Kaz Kasozi is a multi-instrumentalist, film producer and music composer. His music fuses blues, funk, jazz, and pop/rock influences with an African sensibility. He has toured the US, Japan and Europe widely.
He has also worked as a music director/band leader for various tours for different bands and shows in the UK, France, Uganda and the US.
The awards ceremony was graced and headlined by Uganda’s greatest music export Geoffrey Oryema who was also celebrating his homecoming after 39 years in exile in France.