When I’m leaving Mbale, I meet a guy with a big backpack full of DVD’s. He’s bringing them to his cinema in Kumi, a small town north of Mbale. I give him a ride. Soon to be posted: a short documentary about him and his business partner/friend, Okello and their movie imperium in Kumi. Here’s an overview of my time in Kumi, shooting the upcoming video:
Hanging out in Kumi was a special experience. The first night I arrive I’m instantly invited by Emma and Okello to join a graduation party. We drove to a little village while the sun was setting and we bought some “Senator”-beer. The beer was called after Obama when he became a senator in 2005. I spotted the brewery when I passed Jinja. Some brownish, foaming liquid was spraying in the air: the source of Senator I guess…
We arrived at the party and got right away some food and an Adjon. Adjon is a plastic bucket where everybody drinks from with a plant straw. The liquid consists of warm water that is poured over a substance that is made out of millet and yeast. It had quite a particular and yeasty taste and the fluid was rather thick. It was good for once but it’s definitely not my new favorite drink. There was one funny thing about the party: There was loud Ugandan pop music, but no light.
The big generator it’s sole purpose was to fuel the big sound system that was blasting, yet not even one little light bulb was connected to this system. It’s a question of priorities I think.
This is one of the songs they were playing at the graduation party and it’s been in my head ever since:
(yes I also don’t get why the guy in the video is wearing two pairs of glasses…)
A bit later we drove off and stopped at a place where a huge crowd was gathered. You could hear the distinctive sound of loud, distorted music with the voice of a local MC interfering from time to time.
It immediately hit me that most of the crowd were young adolescent guys who had a strange look in their eyes. I recognized that stare, that gaze. I had seen it before. This stare was a combination of alcohol and …
I soon realized what the second ingredient was when we stepped through the crowd and saw what everybody was so excited about: A young lady was moving her but cheeks separately to the rhythm of the beat. “Twerking” I believe it is called. I must say that I never saw such excellent twerking performance. The ladies come all the way from Kampala to preform around the country in little villages and cities. At a certain point I feared for the safety of these girls. The huge male crowd was coming closer and closer as the final twerk dance was about to start. One of the guys touches the dancing girl.
Then everything goes very fast. The music is cut and three big guys come out of the neighboring bar and start to disperse the crowd. After five minutes the show resumes. “That’s very normal, nothing ever really happens to the girls” Emma tells me. We drink a few last senators. Then the guys drop me off at my little guesthouse.
The next morning senator strikes upon me with great vengeance. My head is bursting. I’m filming the guys while they’r working. The town is dusty, hot and my camera attracts a bit too much unwanted attention. I just want to sleep all day and drink cold water.
We take a break and drive off in Emma’s old Toyota to a pork shack for lunch. The pork, matoke (cooked bananas) and a few sodas help me to beat my hangover.
My time in Kumi gives me a very interesting insight in Ugandan village life. The guys seem to know everybody. They spend most of their time greeting other people. That’s a very important aspect of African life and culture. I leave the two guys with their cinema and their big dreams. They see potential in their business and so do I.