I stumbled upon a link through the American Embassy Kampala page in 2013 which was encouraging young emerging leaders in Business, Civil society and Public management to apply for the Mandela Washington Fellowship for young African Leaders https://youngafricanleaders.state.gov/washington-fellowship/apply/ I was a little skeptical about my chances which I guess contributed to why I did not grab the chance then. I bookmarked the page only to get back to it a little too late. Well I subscribed knowing that the following year could be another chance. I had always dreamed of chances where I could meet up with people who sacrifice on a daily basis with limited resources yet with big dreams. I considered it a better chance that would give Africa a new face as opposed to the failed strategy of pouring out endless aid that contributes to a mindset of expectation and self entitlement. This beautiful, iconic and diverse continent is awash with potential waiting to be empowered to manage the unquestionable amounts of resources it possesses.
Turns out, I wasn't wrong, this year I was privileged to be apart of an amazing group of young emerging leaders whose achievements in community regardless of which track is unbelievable. It was a moment where iron was sharpening iron. It was a moment to be alive and evaluate the many options regarding resources, knowledge and networks.
If you feel like those dreams you always share are far fetched based on the circumstances, that you cannot possibly achieve the vision that burns so clearly in your heart.It is time to consider applying for this program. It is the best and most fulfilling time out I have ever got in my life. I had come to a point in my life where I couldn't confidently talk about what I want to achieve regarding my Vision. Now am equipped with an experience that has breathed life and hope into what am born to do.
I learned the value of team work and collaboration, and how Americans take seriously the spirit of volunteerism. Yes I learned so much from the leadership sessions, site visits companies like King Author still in existence after hundreds of years,Timberland the iconic shoe company to mention but a few. The biggest lesson though was out of class at the Dartmouth College Campus. Most times I was about to walk into the library, Cafeteria or any main building at the college campus, and there was a student or administrator about to walk in before me, they would ensure I walk in first by opening the door and waiting till i did so. At first i thought it was only reserved for the fellows in town as we were referred to. But it was a culture that was clearly existing at this prestigious IV League establishment. A habit that is essential for the development of our communities.We have to give a chance to emerging generations by leaving that door open for growth and opportunity. Am doing exactly that, the door is open walk in and become a 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow for young African Leaders.
I call upon you all that are sacrificing your time and resources for the benefit of community. Innovators with big dreams to change lives. Social entrepreneurs. Follow this link https://youngafricanleaders.state.gov/washington-fellowship/apply/
My love for blueberry muffins dates back from the first time I stepped out of the beloved continent Africa in September 2009. Hong Kong has always had a way for me being my first over seas destination. It wasn't long before Starbucks came calling and wow served warm and fresh. It was definitely the biggest muffin I had ever seen. It seemed like it was staring at me, only that it looked way more delicious than I could care. Thinking that this was a delicacy only to experience on these such trips, each time it has become like some kind of ritual whenever I travel. Only that this time,it has just gotten a little more interesting.
I am currently in Hanover at Dartmouth college Hanover NH USA as part of the annual Mandela Washington Fellowship YALI. A President Obama initiative aimed at re-positioning young African leaders with potential to to become influential right from the grassroots with purpose driven actions that empower communities through Business, Civil Society and Public Management.
It's been three weeks and believe me there can never be a better program like this one. We are twenty five at Dartmouth college from seventeen countries and we all had a weekend with local families as a home stay session meant to expose us more to the American culture. This gave me a chance to go blueberry picking
Coming from Uganda, we sure do have our fair share of the fruits.
I mean talk of the tastiest Pineapples, Mangoes you name it. Blueberries though, are native to North America and only come second to strawberries in popularity here in the USA.
I was in my zone, my little world face to face with the real reason these special muffins get their identity. It was more than a chance to pick fresh fruit. It was an experience that stirred my imagination. I was now in sync with what made this particular delicacy matter. This leadership fellowship is testing me to the core and looking from the American perspective and culture, it is clear that the nations we admire as Africans have consistently celebrated such moments like Blueberry picking. I wasn't alone in the field, the pleasure of three more family members that hosted me for two nights two teenage boys Fin and Mark, Their dad Paul and Liz happily did the same and making sure I was enjoying it just as much as they did. The passion, unity with each of us filling up our containers with these lovely fruits made me to think. Does it matter how much we all pick? At the end of the day, we bring all of it together proud in the knowledge that this united us and without it may be my next Blueberry Muffin wouldn't test the same.
There is a chance that if you think of something and do not implement it, someone who is thinking the same way could go ahead and do it. He or she might not necessarily do it the same way you intended to, but wow you would be amazed or even disappointed not following through with your idea. Thankfully for me, after much thought about refurbishing schools around Kampala and Uganda at large, my friends from Ohio United states of America chose me to come up with a concept that would bring to life the school of the deaf in Ntinda. Their plan was to raise money back home in the States and would then paint the children's dormitories that badly needed a lift. This was a priceless experience as with colors and images that place is not the same as i speak. A young Volunteer who has dedicated her life to this school is going even further to ensure that more life is injected into this school that looks after many boys and girls that are easily forgotten http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/central-leader/9284622/Ugandas-my-new-home
With friends from America, and volunteers my task was even easier. Talk about people focused and making a difference so selflessly in one place.
This has been quickly followed up by another small school towards the western part of Uganda. It is indeed a confirmation of a journey that awaits me and all those at Ludigo creations. Every child deserves an environment that makes them feel wanted and loved. One that inspires and aids their capacity to create and be useful. I choose to be practical in ensuring that this is achieved at a level that is acceptable for a progressive nation like Uganda. We did this project in July 2013 and the best is yet to come
Appreciation of these special ladies is on almost everyone's lips unless of course you not aware of this. Mother's day is when everyone is supposed to highlight their love and appreciation for the women who sacrifice daily to ensure that their children become responsible adults. They stop at nothing to make it happen and even shortage of resources seems like no factor. Indeed that is why they deserve our appreciation everyday and highlighting it once a year is icing on the cake.
I felt convicted in this year's celebration to use color as a catalyst of appreciation. I knew that with the first project of this holiday ART AT HEART experience nothing would fit better than challenging these youngsters. The question of the day did not seem to stir any imagination since everyone seemed to think it was an ordinary day. It was only after dishing out some clues that a little girl answered with a cheeky smile that it would be Mother's come Sunday the 12th of May.
With that settled, it was time to make an appreciation card for our mothers. The hesitation on what to draw or write was evident on the Children's faces. They all seemed to wonder what this really means. No doubt that this was new to them. I look back at my days in the interpersonal skills class in preparation for a Children's conference with Watoto. At first i thought that's easy do we really need to be told how to say thank you?
I think that if Children are exposed to these basic elements of life, Like THANK YOU, AM SORRY,EXCUSE ME PLEASE, so much can be achieved in regards to socializing and becoming formidable leaders. Leaders who are grounded enough and yet sensitive to the very details that are overlooked in these days where diplomacy between nations is dying out. The answers lie right here at home where mothers remain that inspiration of resilience, passion,hard work, sacrifice and above all love.
On the 14th of March i set out for Lugazi on the invitation of Jordan Hooper a teacher from Australia at the end of her volunteering mission with YOFAFO Youth focus foundation. This is an organization that empowers women and Children through education,health and micro finance http://www.yofafo.org/about-us I feel called as an artist to use the one thing in my hand which is color to outline the role of such initiatives and raise awareness there by contributing towards their undoubted potential to change lives, communities, the country and the entire African continent.
My role of the day was simple and i was well equipped with powder colors, paint brushes and paper. The theme of the day was " Today i will see my rainbow." Creation has all the color we need and my personal favorite could inspire someone else. Thankfully i had an audience of over 40 little ones in a class that was to paint for their very first time. A combined class of grade 5 and 6 about to share their rainbow experience with me.
Children remain my biggest inspiration and i go with an open mind in hope that am about to experience numerous highlights. This class had all the signs of good teachers around them with brilliant answers towards what seem to be easy questions but believe me they were answered with eloquence that one would not easily expect from children in such a remote area. Some of the children without any shoes but with enthusiasm so infectious that you would want to go back again and again.
I went hoping and praying that my color could be theirs but left instead with their color. And now am left anxious for another chance to head back for another rainbow experience. You see for every storm we are reassured by the colors of the rainbow that everything will be okay. Valence the founder of YOFAFO used exactly what he had through experience he held firm his colors in a place that only dreamed for a decent school, health care and infrastructure. Now his color has found it's way into the hearts of many in Lugazi.
Thanks to Jordan Hooper for her interest in my mission and the opportunity to engage the audience in yet another workshop that is so far my highlight this year. I look forward to more opportunities to stir the creative juices among the Children of Yofafo.
This year is down by almost three months already and it feels like edges since I last posted something. It feels like the middle of the year already due to how much has happened already good and bad. I will save you from dented emotions due to especially the bad that has already happened.
Thinking of the right path to take as regards many opportunities that peel before my own eyes, make it some what amazing especially after asking God to grant me the right people to see through this vision that has become my daily responsibility. The distractions on such a journey can be relentless. Ranging from personal, Physical, social and worst of all spiritual. The latter compromising ones ability to remain inspired and innovative. I feel my path gets clearer by the day thanks to the challenges. Ones strength of character is beneficial for the short and especially long term goals.
The belief we have to conquer takes us places and grants us peace to remain grounded no matter what.
I look at this year and times that have passed gauging my consistency towards that which was once a little boy's passion, to how it is becoming an inspiration to my audience.
This week i head to Lugazi and Fort Portal for workshops that allow me to engage with a new audience. This is my path and i live to remain true to it. Hopping that whatever trouble a long the way sharpens me up to fly heights anew.
I looked up at mum occasionally trying to get her attention with every drawing. Her words meant so much to me and drew instant inspiration. I cared less what the rest had to say.I had a fan who mattered, one who had my best interests close to her heart. A game of soccer or football depending on where you come from was always an intense affair with every boy in the neighborhood trying to impose their authority on proceedings. The stakes seemed to go a little higher due to dad's occasional presence on the sidelines. Me and my two brothers would try to out do each other clearly wearing our hearts on our sleeves to make dad proud. Every infant needs this and thank God with this kind of experience, this week it was again highlighted bringing back awesome memories.
The holiday art class code named Heart at heart http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ludigo/186268841432909?ref=hl is made up of children sponsored by Kids First http://www.facebook.com/bbungakidsfirst?ref=hl and others from the neighborhood. The attendance has reasonably increased from 12 members to 20 thanks to more supplies from the USA courtesy of Mary Taylor. Her visit also created much needed awareness about this project whose potential to grow cannot be underestimated. I have done numerous projects involving children. Most of them have been short term in different places. I feel this particular one is my biggest commitment. With such a calling you need all the support you can get. Which is why i could not help my self but write the importance of a parent. What happened to me this week took me back several years. Two mothers coming with their children and making specific inquiries about the project. Well you could say they need time away from the responsibility and you have a point. But with so much free time in the holidays how many people ensure not just their children's safety but also involvement in talent building?
The responsibility of parents to make the most of what is available for their children especially when its free impacts on the future stability of families, communities, Nations and the world at large. For potential not nature d becomes a liability.
The challenge is on for whoever is reading and as well as myself to utilize wisdom in highlighting moments that make such difference. Next Holiday should come soon enough. For now it is studio time and school workshops here and there. Still there is so much to blog about. Only blessings to all of you.
From the time i decided to be a professional artist, it became rather easy to dream big and hope for the very best as regards what opportunities my new chosen career had to offer. I was rather intrigued by the prospects and how far i could shoot for which ever star that was available. My list of dreams included having my own gallery and using my Art to educate as well as entertain. Growing into an all round Artist is never easy and a fair bit of my efforts has taught me how important it is to partner with different gifted people to get as close as i can to all these dreams.
I now run a fairly big enough space for my work here in Kampala Uganda which also offers room for other well celebrated Ugandan conteporary artists like Ssentongo Amos and Wasswa Donald http://www.waswad.com/index2.php
My vision remains clear and time after time i live in appreciation of how far i have come. I thank God for the people he has blessed me with especially Reagan here at the gallery. His courage and willingness to learn is priceless and together we learn and grow. I pray for the right people for the right season and no limitation what so ever can get in the way.
Through networking on line i met a beautiful lady whose passion for the arts granted me one of those rare opportunities. I have now known Lacy Ellis for a little over a year and a half. She fell in love with my work which i should say is a major compliment given her experience. She has recently introduced me to Art village gallery that feels like a match made in heaven already.
I am proud to let you know that as i speak am profiled on their website and for any creative person that you might know, energy that is drawn from such recognition is second to non.
I have a good feeling about this year, i sense growth in my work and career as an artist. I feel that there is no limitation for the determined and with faith me and Art village will continue being introduced to avenues whose potential of influence will multiply.
As a little boy stories from grandma, aunties and uncles and parents was such a treasure. Without much television they came in handy. Nothing beats that experience especially when it came to Christmas time. I feel blessed to have had what is now a rare chance of an extended family. Looking back many have passed on and such a sweet memory remains. Every tune of the timeless or say legendary Philly Lutaya Christmas songs brings my dear late auntie Alex to life. Her selflessness specially highlighted by the Botanical beach experience with such music playing while we all tried out our swimming in lake Victoria.
Yes this is a season of a new born savior whose story remains the hallmark of the christian faith. The humbleness in which he came into this world is not what worldly kings would choose. While the future heir to whatever throne would be born in a place of splendor and beauty, he the savior humbly settled for a manger. This remains the foundation of his servant hood legacy which many a leader should emulate. His legacy remains a major highlight at every turn of the year churning out experiences of supernatural convictions.
This made no sense obviously to me as a child and drew judgmental sentiments towards those who could not allow the savior room to be born in respect and awe. I believe even those older than a child my age still seek to understand the entire script. It's authenticity lies in the fruit it has bore more than 2000 years ago to date.
Just like my aunties, uncles, parents and grand parents i get the rare chance of engaging a young audience in images and color. I seek to learn and to inspire through a timeless story whose influence goes beyond fantasy, good clothes, nice food, partying etc. One that transforms, heals and redeems. Those whose determination is to approach the throne of God with childlike faith and thanks giving.
It feels good to be back in studio though the timing is not that perfect especially now with meeting after meeting. Banks are not the easiest to deal with. Some times i wish there was a way to avoid them. Any way our model is to utilize our entrepreneurial skills and talent to build an Enterprise whose reliance on goodwill is minimal.
In my last post i featured an Artist who is supposed to be with us. The bad news is he won't be any more. My prayer remains the same "the right people." I know that vision has to be caught and not forced on any body. The more relentless we remain, towards fulfillment the more people will take notice.
I have always shunned mathematics, economics and business administration. I feel that this has indeed come back to haunt me. I feel that my place is out there in the field with people and in a studio painting or in a theater doing some drama. This though requires a great deal of management which has held me captive from my comfort zone. I would obviously prefer people with such qualifications and be released to do what i do best. My growth into a business administrator remains painful and bumpy. I feel am back in school and at such a time as this learning business and people is such a mix.
I feel that people equipped for such times could be useless though without catching the vision. For it is in hard times that you are tested. And without vision people perish, we need it to anchor ourselves.
We are clearly evolving with every passing moment and tests that are so stunning to take. The future of this company and art foundation is heavily reliant on faith in God whose strength should hold us, whose wisdom should enlighten us, whose love should unify us and favor to grant us fulfill