Voicing Entebbe with Christine Ayo

Last week I ran a two day workshop with 15 women for the Voicing Entebbe project. Initiated by Ugandan artist Christine Ayo (www.christineayo.com) who fundraised to build a monument in rememberance of the 23 women brutally murdered in Entebbe last year. No suspects have been apprehended and its significant has been reduced to political partisan bickering. Christine’s plan was to build a monument in the mayors garden in Entebbe. She’d been talking to the mayor for months via email and he was totally supportive of the initiative. Unfortunately, now it seems the monument needs security clearance in order to go ahead. Even with this decision we decided to go ahead because she had approached me to develop a piece of performance which would accompany the opening of the monument.

On the first day we waited in the hall of the venue Via Via a beautiful location in Katabe Entebbe. The mobilizer and local councillor Daisy had contacted women from Entebbe. Like the Caribbean time is relative, ‘soon come’ is a reality for many. However i knew that for these women to dedicate two days of their lives to a creative process was a great sacrifice, most are the sole providers for their families. So we waited. Eventually the women arrived.

We ate breakfast and then gathered in a circle to play a name game. Now in 2018 these exercises are standard workshop format but when i first arrived in Uganda the only organisation promoting this approach was In Movement – Art for Social Change. All of the activities i deliver i have experienced personally so i knew that the games and exercises would relax and open these women to share who they are and how they felt when they heard about the murders.

The next exercise was the River of Life, a very personal way of exploring our lives, sharing the events that define who we are. I was amazed by the level of disclosure within the group and what became very apparent was that these women really needed to share. We cried a lot and revealed the deep pain many of us feel on a personal level in relation to our marriages or the lose of siblings, parents and children.

This set the tone for the afternoon and for the creation of a poem. I think poetry should be emotionally and personal. We brain stormed on the question ‘how did i feel when i heard about the murders and what could we do to keep ourselves safe as women? The usual responses came: don’t move at night, more police on the streets. From a feminist point of view I was not satisfied with this and challenged the women to discover how they could take responsibility for their and other women’s safety. I think its important to develop solidarity between women, for us to embrace and care for one another because the system of patriarchy promotes us to be in competition. From the words, feelings and solutions I asked each woman to write two lines which spoke to the feelings and the solutions. What I loved about this part of the workshop is that Daisy was able to translate my instructions into Luganda so we all stayed together. No one was left out.

The second day of the workshop was about the development of the poem into a performance. My focus was on vocal projection and body awareness. I wanted the women to learn to communicate without talking. Talking is easy and in Uganda people love to talk but in my opinion not effectively communicate.  Women in Uganda are taught to be seen but not heard.  They speak in very subdued tones and you often have to lean in to hear them clearly. My role is definately to get them to speak up and be heard. For many this is a very scary proposition but i hope i have achieved that with this group because the finished piece is an amazing piece of performance art which I’m sure the audience will appreciate.

I haven’t posted any pictures from the workshop because Christine is creating a short documentary of the process and managed to capture the women in very expressive tableaus which will tell the story of our process and the finished poem entitled:

When i Heard.