Gulu is the future


Being an immigrant means you don’t have to adhere to the stereotypes and prejudices of the natives. When I arrived in Uganda I knew nothing of its history. One of the realities of living in Africa is you realise that there is no ‘African’ Identity, instead there are many tribes who have their cultures and you better learn know how each nation does its thing.

As an African of the Diaspora this has been a rude awakening. As a student of Pan Africanism, Marcus Garvey and Rastafari, we are encouraged to return to the continent and to see Africa as ONE.

After receiving the results from myBeing an immigrant means you don’t have to adhere to the stereotypes and prejudices of the na DNA test in 2006 and seeing a list of at least 10 nations in my maternal bloodline, it helped me to see that even in our differences we are connected, but that is not the case on the ground.

Histories are important as is culture but I question and reflect on the vision for the United Nations of Africa. Will it ever be possible when so many atrocities have been perpetrated? Will we ever get to a time when we will see ourselves as one nation?

This brings me to my work in Gulu, the region of Northern Uganda which was submerged in war for 20 years, terrorised by a man named Kony. This area was brought to public attention again with the film Kony 2012 which highlighted the plight of children who were forced to become child soldiers.  The reality of Gulu today is that the town and the region is no longer at war but is emerging as a vibrant commercial and culture hub.

When I tried to find out about Gulu in tour books, I couldn’t find anything so I decided to take a journey up north for myself. The people of Northern Uganda are diverse but most come under the ethno group known as Luo. They are Nilotics and like most humans have a diversity of appearance.

What struck me the most however is how graceful and welcoming the people are and how ladies ride bicycles with babies strapped on their backs, this would not be seen in Buganda who inhabit the central region of Uganda which centres around the captial Kampala. I had a friend who had relocated back home to Gulu town to help his father, so this was my excuse to travel upcountry and see for myself.

What I found was a very organised town, bubbling with business. Gulu is a university town so the population is young and vibrant. What also excited me was the creativity of the youth.  Hip-hop, storytelling and visual art are pervasive but they needed capacity building to develop their artistry on a more commercial and professional level.  So set about creating a platform called: Word Sound and Power for spoken word, hiphop and music. Since then I continue to travel upcountry to develop networks and projects for the creative development of young people of the North. I’m excited, the clip is from a recent trip where I got invited by Concordia Volunteer Abroad Project who have been working with United Youth Entertainment, a group of talented film makers who are producing films often without any funding. I like this, they are telling their own stories which is so important because as we saw with Kony 2012 other people can tell our stories but it isn’t always the truth.