Monday, February 16, 2004

Gots me some culture this weekend

This past friday night I attended a Ugandan dance festival - it was absolutely fascinating and beautiful. The event featured dance troupes from all over Uganda, as well as from Mozambique and Rwanda. This was totally one of those - 'Whoa, africa is really... african" moments, when all sorts of preconceptions turned out to be (happily) true - amazing movements, huge smiles, bright costumes, crazy war cries - it had it all. Unfortunately, the photos turned out pretty dark, so not much is visible. Here's a shot of some male rwandan dancers anyways (they were my favourite!):

The evening ended with the 'world premiere' of an excellently done movie (very strangely, it was introduced by Aiden Quinn) that illustrated what is going on with the Lord's Resistance Army in northern Uganda. In a nutshell, the LRA beleives that they have some closer connection to god, and that they must somehow brutalise the Ocholi people (the tribe in the region) in order to work to create a new government based on the Ten Commandments. Unfortunately, the way they do this is through the mass abduction of children as child soldiers and sex slaves, and the mass slaughter of anyone who comes in their way (an indication that their grasp of the Ten Commandments is just a little tenuous), including those who commit the crime of owning a bicycle, as this creates a threat of a quick warning system amongst villagers. [In a horrifying piece of irony, the actor who portrayed the LRA's leader in the movie has recently had 3 of his own children abducted by the LRA.] The LRA is supported by Sudan, which makes them (apparently) extremely difficult for the Ugandan military to beat, as LRA fighters simply retreat across the Sudanese border when there is any danger of a domestic threat their own forces. For more info about the LRA, click here
(*FYI- the LRA's activities are strictly confined to the north of the country, I live in the south; they are of absolutely no danger here.)

To continue the weekend's 'native culture' trend, I was lucky enough to attend a Ugandan wedding on saturday. I couldn't beleive the size of it - 1200 people! Apparently though, the global trend in weddings is to have the length of the speeches be directly proportional to the number of guests - we decided to leave the reception around hour four of the speeches. (Thank goodness is was at least broken up around hour 3 by a dinner of, you guessed it, carbs carbs and more carbs. Would you like some potato to go with your rice, matoke, and pasta? Oh, here's a teaspoon of coleslaw to give it some nutritional value...) An interesting experience nonetheless!

And finally, Sunday's culture was of a more pedestrian variety. My friend Cheryl and I decided to go to Owino Market to do some shopping. Owino is absolutely humongous- acres and acres of tiny twisty laneways selling everything from tomatoes to radios to running shoes to live chickens to used clothing. I literally think you could stock an entire life with purchases from Owino alone. We had gone there to buy some clothes, all of which are second hand from Europe and North America. I now know why shopping for used clothes at home usually only results in finding really 'retro' or really 'gross' clothing - all the good stuff gets shipped to africa! (Used western clothes is pretty much the african uniform - there isn't much a domestic clothing industry. It creates some really funny results - like big burly men advertising for gay pride - homosexuality is illegal here - or for making strides against breast cancer, or people wearing advertisements for President's Choice or sales at the Brick, both of which i think would be difficult to access from here.) We didn't get much shopping done though, as a torrential rainstorm started about five minutes after we arrived, and we ended up retreating to a movie theatre to see Out of Time with Denzel Washington. (No, I have no idea how they get such new moview here so fast!) Its hard to really understand the vast craziness of Owino from a picture, but here's one nonetheless:

**Thank you to Heather Harris, kampala high school teacher and Nova Scotian, for sharing all of these photos!**


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