By Kampala Post Reporter
The novelty of change is pungent here! This 11th edition of the Bayimba International Festival of Arts feels like its rebirth. Breaming close to the surface is a contagious idealism and purity of intent in the noble ambition- to develop into an important (East) African destination festival, ensuring regional and international visitation and enhancing both national and International cultural tourism.
For anyone only now just learning about Bayimba, this festival is easily Uganda’s leading arts festival. It has managed to retain its homegrown flavor, and appeal to a wide spectrum of Uganda’s demographic by featuring an inspiring variety of local artists, performers and visionaries who constitute the bulk of the lineup as well as the production team.
Day one of the festival; the 2nd of August boasts the location; Lunkulu Island, as its prize horse of the day. Between a schedule that ran late with none of the acts eager to bite the bullet and start, a production crew stretched out thin over the impressive 100 acre piece of land, and the curiosity provoked when trying to acclimatize oneself to the idea of camping, the expanse of the Island proved to be the most rewarding diversion. It is hard to believe that Bayimba has only been at this location 6 months; the work to turn this nearly impenetrable forest into a passable and habitable space is an impressive feat.
Set on the shores of Lake Victoria, the Island is poised to grow into a hub for artistic sensibilities. Bayimba has previously been hosted at the Kampala-based Uganda National Cultural Centre commonly known as the national theater for a decade.
In the words of Faisal Kiwewa- the festival director, “We want to create a convivial village atmosphere that gives arts practitioners year-round space to create and innovate and fans and visitors plenty of opportunity to experience and explore.” I discovered that Lunkulu is loosely translated to stubbornness, and I suspect that in imitation, Bayimba will pay no mind to the enormity of the task ahead while they navigate their way to success.
Starting the performances on the main stage was Chance Nalubega who managed to shake the cold out of the revelers’ bones. Red Banton, Fred Ssebatta and the Matendo Band turned out as early favorites for the fans; other acts like comedians: Emeka and Tumu Siime graced the stage as well. Ragga Dee who took to the stage at midnight, was thronged by cultural performers in a colorful and energetic display that brought this inaugural night to its climax; churning out old favorites like “Letter O” and “Munumunumu”. The crowd that had been stirred into a frenzy, then had the option of dancing the night away with the Deejays and enjoying the bar by the water front. It sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? The festival promises to only get more riveting from here on out, so don’t be caught holding the short end of the stick.
It has been said many times before, “the deeper the foundation, the taller the building”. One can only be optimistic about the scales to which Bayimba will rise; seeing as they have done and continue to painstakingly cultivate roots that reach far into the fabric of the society they are keen to engage and serve.