Tag Archives: Uganda

Perk News for 2013 Songs of Kiguli: Museum for African Art Donates Book

One of the advantages of working with a project that reaches across the borders of countries and cultures is the opportunity to meet other people passionate about their interests.  This is what we found in the Museum for African Art located in New York City.  In response to our plea for support they offered up their catalog and said, “Pick something.”  We believe we found a treasure that expressed what we were trying to accomplish and did so within the spirit of our project.  We selected a wonderful book entitled Personal Affects: Power & Poetics in Contemporary South African Art.

personal_affectsStraight from the catalog description the “artworks represent artists’ responses to a week-long stay in New York and visits with the international team of curators. The common thread throughout the exhibition is the highly personal point of departure of their working methods, informed by their varied experiences as South Africans.”

Participating artists include Jane Alexander, Wim Botha, Steven Cohen, Churchill Madikida, Thando Mama, Mustafa Maluka, Jay Pather, Johannes Phokela, Robin Rhode, Claudette Schreuders, Berni Searle, Doreen Southwood, Samson Mudzunga, Clive van den Berg, Minnette Vari, Diane Victor, and Sandile Zulu. Exhibition catalogue with Introduction by curators David Brodie, Laurie Ann Farrell, Churchill Madikida, Sophie Perryer, and Liese van der Watt, and essays: The Enigma of the Rainbow Nation: Contemporary South African Art at the Crossroads of History by Okwui Enwezor, Towards an ‘Adversarial Aesthetics’: A Personal Response to Personal Affects by Liese van der Watt, and artist interviews by Tracy Murinik.

Published by the Museum for African Art, New York and Spier, Cape Town. September 2004. 176 pp.

It is through art (and writing) that our species expresses those things which touch us most deeply, that give rise to all that is good, and bad, within us.  It is how we convey emotion and thought across language and cultural barriers.  Understanding the power of the word and art will prepare the students of Kiguli for a lifetime of successful leadership in their homes, communities, and perhaps their nation and the world.

The museum book is part of a package making up the perk for a $100 donation to 2013 Songs of Kiguli.  We labeled this perk “Hill of Antelopes” which is taken from the name of the capital city, Kampala (Kasozi Kempala). Won’t you join us in supporting a cause that gives us an opportunity to reach out, person to person, and help build a better world?  Just one more thing, helping to pull this project together will make the smiles on nearly 700 children that much more bigger and brighter!


Stop by our fundraiser and check out all of our perk packages.  We only have 6 days to go.  We have received dozens and dozens of complements on the project and the work to date.  That, of course, is appreciated.  It is time, however, to back up all that praise with a bit of cash.  Help us deliver on a promise to light up a corner of Africa with poetry and music.

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When Poetry Makes a Difference

Why is a book of poetry, The Songs of Kiguli so terribly important to bright and inquiring minds living in the rural areas of Uganda?

1236165_10200400083191948_1324088671_nThe Kiguli Army School was originally founded to provide an inexpensive education to the children of soldiers in the Ugandan Army.  At inception it was registered as a Universal Primary Education school or UPE.  UPEs were set up by the government of Uganda to provide free primary-level education to children across the country.  Registration does not mean that the operating costs of the school are covered.  Books, stationary, school meals, and much of the salaries paid to teachers and administrators are not covered.

The cost of teacher salaries was not supported by the government until 2001 since the ministry of education had difficulty locating the registration number.  From the organization of the school until 2001, the teachers were paid out of the army’s “Rational Cash Allowance (RCA).  This is a fund providing small stipends for soldiers.

In 2002 things began to change for the better.  Luwero Industries, Ltd. Provided a location for the school and constructed 4 classroom blocks.  With this contribution came more students from the families of workers at Luwero.  The school is now providing education to the Nakasongola military fraternity and the children of Luwero workers.  The school is able to keep the contribution required from the families to a reasonable amount due to the proximity of the campus to corporate housing, local villages, and the homes of the fraternity.

“Reasonable cost,” of course, is a relevant term.  Education is being provided with the materials at hand.  But the school desperately needs a number of items not covered by the government, fraternity or corporate support.  Many of the students travel some 4 km to and from school. Reliable transportation is required to and from athletic events.  A maintenance vehicle is needed as well as repairs to the original buildings.  A library has been started and it is in need of more inventory.  The expanding school could also use more space.  The teachers and the administrators would like to see the school lunch program expanded.

It is true that the sale of this little book of poetry, along with its companion DVD and the 2012 edition, will help raise funds to support the projects required by the school.  PDMI Publishing, LLC, is doing its best to build the kind of marketing program that will generate the required interest in this project.  But there is far, far more.  One short review of the thank yous that flow from this rather large school give you some idea of the impact the simple act of publishing can have on the spirits of the students themselves.  Although the poems show that they are already far along the road of understanding the circumstances of their country and the world, this book gives them the sense that they have the power to change things for the better.  Something THEY do can have an impact.  Won’t you join us in training and inspiring the next generation of thoughtful, compassionate leaders of this African nation?

Check out the web page and the Facebook link on my side bar.


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Qwela ~ The Rhythm of Uganda

Here we go with another article in my series about the 2013 Songs of Kiguli project.

The 2013 edition of Songs of Kiguli will be released by PDMI Publishing early this fall. There will also be a DVD with footage of the school and of the students reading their own poetry.  In addition, Qwela has graciously agreed to support the project with their music.  Qwela is a band from Kampala, Uganda with a “unique afro-fusion flavor of music.”  Qwela means pure in rukiga, which is one of Uganda’s ethnic languages.

Although influenced by western culture, members of the band were raised in traditional African families.  Their work is original and it fuses the traditions of their culture with western styles such a jazz and reggae. The mix is their own special interpretation of Uganda and its people.

Qwela small

Qwela formed in 2007 and started their career by producing their own versions of popular contemporary music.  As they grew in their art, so did their repertoire.  Now they produce their own music and are a featured act with a following.  In addition to the influence of jazz and reggae, the band draws on inspiration from rumba, blues, gospel and afro-soul rhythms and sounds.  The band’s music blends African rhythms and melodies with socially conscious lyrics that support and illuminate stories with a message.

Qwela’s mission is to help bring about positive change in the hearts of those living in Uganda and those around the world.  When you visit their page on Reverbnation you should note that 50% of the proceeds from their music go to World Vision.  For these reasons, and many others, they made a perfect match for the Songs of Kiguli project.  Their music speaks directly to the lives, dreams, hopes, and needs of the children in the Kiguli Army School.  They express the heart of the project in song.  Selected music, lyrics and videos can be found on Reverbnation, Qwela.

The trailer for the 2013 Songs of Kijuli uses a clip from Mwana Wangye, “My Child,” the DVD will contain the cut in its entirety:

They say that we can’t make it
but they don’t know who we are
they say that we can’t do it
but they don’t know where we’re from

Iwe mwana wanje we
iwe mwana wanje
Iwe mwana wanje

When I was young my daddy taught me
he said son, here’s the secret to success in life
he said find that thing which you can do best
and just give it your very best shot

Qwela and The Songs of Kiguli are doing just that.

Another piece that will be on the DVD is the story of Okello, a child kidnapped from a burning village to become a warrior in war that is not his.  The tale and the music are haunting.

His little feet are burning
On the hot desert soil
barely hours since the village burnt down
and now he’s taken prisoner
this little dreamer village boy
dreamt of being a football star
now marched by army rebels
to fight a war that is not his

Okello Okello
Imitu bedingo
Okello Okello

Forced into brutality
He was a child no more
He learnt to kill
learnt how to fight
learnt how to survive
but deep in his heart remains
the dream that would not die
and every day he went to sleep at night
he could hear the voices in his mind
they’re saying

First chance to be free
should I run or should I stay
but his little feet start running
cuz he can hear his mama say

“Ati na ba
wi pe wiliba
Akaniyo diluni
dwong pachuba

Okello Okello
Running through the night
Okello Okello
Oh he ran with all his might
Okello Okello
running for his life
Okello Okello
and now he’s free
Okello Okello
free to run
Okello Okello
free to live
Okello Okello
to live his dream

The last piece is a beautiful song written in the native tongue. The video shows a family day of being together, enjoying the outdoors, a picnic, just being family.  The chorus soothes with the sounds of a lullaby,

Don’t you cry, Mama tokaaba saying, everything is gonna be alright, it’s gonna be alright, it’s gonna be okay.

For the DVD , PDMI Publishing will wrap these beautiful pieces around the vision of primary school students who are doing their best to change their lives, their community, and someday their country.  Won’t you help us?  Donations can be as low as $1.00 and all of the perks carry the theme of Africa and education. Learn more about the power of poetry at the links below:





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Inspiration ~ What a poem can do

The school:

Kiguli Army primary school is populated by 687 students. These students come from diverse backgrounds, experience and lifestyle.  Mostly, they are dependents or orphans of the Ugandan military fraternity. The school can be found on the hinterland closest to the shores of Lake Kyoga, Uganda. Lake Kyoga is a freshwater lake that supports several landing sites and fishing communities from which many a Kiguli student hails. Some of the children’s parents work in the Ministry of Defense ordnance factory called Luwero Industries Limited. The school has thus been made the centerpiece of the company’s corporate social responsibility plan due to filial as well as patriotic links. The school is also located in an area that is part of a re-forestation project being conducted by Luwero Industries.

422866_423627354360152_876206834_nThe school is a primary school, not a military or boarding school.  It is not grooming new soldiers. There is a premium placed on discipline, hard work and service to the wider community. These, we believe, are the three legs of the school’s ethical stool. From Primary One through Primary Seven, the students learn Social Studies, Mathematics, English and Science. No one is promoted until they accomplish the work required for the next level with a passing grade.  These subjects are buttressed by extra-curricular activities such as football (soccer), volleyball and athletics. The school has won several district athletics accolades. It is currently poised to enter a district-wide football showpiece that will highlight the children’s unrivaled skills in this sport.

Academically the school has churned out the best students in Nakasongola district in Maths and English for several years on the hop. And this is good for the nation. Admittedly last year the school experienced a dip in such stellar academic achievement. This was due in part to the increased costs of living and falling standards of living in Uganda. Despite of this decline in academic scores, the best student last year was given a bursary in a school near the national airport in Entebbe. He is currently topping his class. Sadly, the rump of Kiguli class of 2012 fell dangerously behind. These children teeter on the precipice overlooking the abyss daily and without this education, there isn’t much promise for their future. It is common for some to fall by the wayside and find themselves as fishermen whose moral dereliction leads to a large seraglio of women and zero prospects beyond living hand to mouth. That’s the boys. The girls end up pregnant as teenagers and faced with a life of poverty with little or no chance of improving their lot.

The school needs a break, too. It provides porridge as the sole meal to the kids but obviously such sustenance for a child (indeed anyone) is way off the mark. We could use help developing a more nutritional cafeteria program.  The buildings of the school are in a state of disrepair.  The parents, Luwero Industries, and other well wishers have put together some funds to repair and renovate the school. But this is a drop is a large ocean of need, especially in light the constricted operating budget; the teachers earn a pittance or volunteer. Yet, we have a strong sense of mission. And we have faith that initiatives such as this project will flip the floundering fortunes of this school and its glorious, inspiring students.

The students.

378201_411855885537299_1338786910_nSo, what can a poetry book do to combat such a mountain of obstacles?  A lot.  This project, The Songs of Kiguli, has given the children a belief in themselves. That’s why even though the majority of the 2012 class didn’t make the grade academically, they continued on to secondary schools of relative repute. This little poetry project is a major boost and helps fill our kids with the inspiration and the belief that if they can pen a published anthology, then they can repair their lives. Here are just a few of the little miracles our little book of poetry has sparked.

Ryan Masaba was a contributor to The Songs of Kiguli 2012. Although he was 3rd in a class of 56 pupils, his grades didn’t measure up on a national level. However, he was able to parlay his contribution to Songs of Kiguli 2012 into an acceptance at a top-drawer Kampala secondary school called Mengo Senior Secondary School. When the headmaster of that school took a look at the anthology he was impressed with this budding poet of Kiguli renown.

Kiguli Army School also attracted pen pals from Florida under the caring tutelage of Mrs. Katherine Rascoe. She was duly impressed by the words woven into a tapestry of poetry in the anthology.  She and Philip Matogo developed a “poetry without borders” program as American and Ugandan kids shared poetry and experiences reflected through their own words. The anthology was the key that created an international relationship between the future leaders of both countries.  Both student bodies could share their artistry in poetry at a level beyond the customs and waters that divided them, learning about the things they shared as well as those that made them different.

61396_423627424360145_1042741173_nSongs of Kiguli also caught the eye of the then Uganda Chief of Defense Forces, four-star General Aronda Nyakairima. He is currently the Minister of Internal Affairs. He was flummoxed by the beauty, honesty and maturity of the Songs of Kiguli. He, at the time, thought that the writing was so good that it could not have come from rural kids deprived of the perquisites that benefit Kampala children. Another General that was impressed by the words conjured by our children was Brigadier-General James Mugira who is also the Managing Director of Luwero Industries Limited. He is a patron of the primary school and was totally taken aback by the children’s brilliance. Thus the army of Kiguli poets had enlisted two powerful generals to its cause.

The school indeed stands upon the cusp of monumental achievement. All these students need is a way to effectively express themselves and they will find the path to a stronger future. This is what this project will give them. Their poetry goes a long way to highlight their own circumstances and talent however it will also throw a spotlight on what ails the people of Uganda, and Africa as a whole.  A people whose time has surely come. That moment in time will shine far beyond any 15 minutes of fame.

Check out the 2013 Songs of Kiguli fundraiser now! Donations start at a dollar and there some awesome perks.


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Projects that Inspire

This week I’d like to focus on a project that you will find on my side bar for the next 30 days or so.  Ever since becoming involved with PDMI Publishing I have met some of the most interesting, energetic and creative people I have ever known.  Last year PDMI Publishing produced a book of poetry written by students in Kampala, Uganda.  I reviewed the work here.   That was only the beginning.

This year a number of us decided we would do something a bit more, well, a lot more extravagant.  This year we are printing a whole new volume and reprinting the first volume.  We are also putting together a DVD of the students reading their poetry along with some footage from the school.  The whole thing will be backed with the truly talented Qwela band, also of Kampala.

Qwela has an amazing sound of a “unique Afro-fusion flavor of music.”  Qwela means ‘pure’ in Rukiga.  Their lyrics speak of family, current events, a love of their tradition.  The pieces selected for the DVD include Mwana Wanji, Okello, and Mama tokaaba.  Okello is the story of a child kidnapped by the rebel armies after his village is burned to the ground.  After being trained as a child warrior, the memory of his mother still calls him to his childhood dreams.  He runs away from his abductors to find the life he really wanted.  Mama tokaaba is a beautiful song sung almost entirely in African dialect.  It is about family, reassurance, and the promise that “everything’s gonna be alright.”  Mwana Wanji, which is also on the trailer, means My Child.   The words of the song are quite powerful in the context of the country today.

They say that we cant make it
but they don’t know who we are
they say that we cant do it
but they don’t know where we’re from

When I was young my daddy taught me
he said son, heres the secret to success in life
he said find that thing which you can do best
and just give it your very best shot

I’d like to note that the link I provided for Qwela states that 50% of all sales go to World Vision.  These people are serious about building a different future.

That brings me to these enterprising young people.  Their volunteer teacher, Philip Matogo teaches them social sciences, English and journalism.  The poetry produced in this classroom indicates that these children are well aware of the Geo-political and local socioeconomic and political circumstances they live in.

It is our hope that this little project can give these students a very real way to impact their world, their education and their future.  Come check it all out and help us meet a rather modest fundraising goal.

2013 – Songs of Kiguli


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Book Review – Language of the Heart

The Songs of Kiguli, edited and published by PDMI Freelance Publishing, available for apx $10.00.

The story of this book begins as a crossing of paths in that huge social networking soup known as Facebook.  A teacher and volunteer, Philip Matogo, in the Kiguli Army School worked on a project with his class to learn to write poetry in English.  When this project was discovered by a publisher (Nessa Arcamenel, owner/co-founder of PDMI Publishing) in the United States, she contacted the school and asked if they would like to publish a book containing their poetry.  Phil gladly took the proposal to the school board who agreed to the project.  Thus began a journey that spanned the globe and included teachers, parents, school children of all ages, and a publisher with a heart.  Nessa (Lisa McKinney) and her husband TC McKinney have brought this book into being completely out of their own pocket.  They do ask for word-of-mouth support.  If you like, you can contact the publisher to make a donation (in addition to purchasing the book).  The proceeds will go directly to the school’s fund to support ongoing projects.

Uganda is an African country with borders drawn by western colonial powers that had little to do with the ancient ranges of tribal Africa.  Thus, as in many African countries, those ancient tribal conflicts rage on.  The continent is also stressed with draughts, disease and corruption.  Effective aid is difficult for many reasons.  In part, tribal passion runs deep on all sides and supporting one tribe against another generates situations similar to the problem that arose in Afghanistan.  The other is, of course, corruption and the difficulty of getting funds to where they are needed.  In this atmosphere it appears that those enterprises that help people to help themselves have the best chance of success.  Educating the children who will, one day, lead that country will be a cornerstone to any success.

The Kiguli Army School in the Nakasongola District of Uganada is such a place of learning.  The poetry project was started by the teacher mentioned above, Philip Matogo, in his classes about English and Social Studies.  The broad subject base of the works included in the book indicates that he does his job well.  These bits and pieces of children’s lives from half a world away show a clear understanding of their own political and social situation as well as the global issues of our time.

The book is a collection weaving quotes and poetry from ancient and modern poets of western philosophy with the thoughts of children 11-17 years old.  These children write from the eyes of a mosquito, the heart hungry for the knowledge, the heart running from abuse and social ills, the spirit looking for ways to improve life and their beloved country, the spirit willing to fight back and build a better future.  This little book is built with thoughts from half way across the globe that could come from somewhere just around the corner, or somewhere deep within your own heart.  You will find that these children are quite insightful.  Their hopes and dreams, disappointments and fears are, indeed thought provoking and very much a part of citizens living anywhere on this planet we call home.

A few quotes seemed to be in order:

“The poem… is a little myth of man’s capacity of making life meaningful. And in the end, the poem is not a thing we see – it is, rather, a light by which we may see – and what we see is life.”

Robert Penn Warren

“Poetry is the impish attempt to paint the color of the wind.”

Maxwell Bodenheim

And from one of the students,  Otengo Mike

Tree is My Name

Oh Man! Oh Man! Oh Man!

Be kind to me as I am to you
Forget not that I save you and your family
You and your children crawled on my chest
Broke off my breasts and sucked themselves
Then you survived
When you were sick
You exposed my many feet
Broke off my toes and ate them
Before you survived

Oh Man! Oh Man! Oh Man!

Be kind to me as I am to you
Don’t forget that I saved you and your crops
When you and your crops were withering to death
I sweated and cried for you
My sweat and tears went up the sky
They dropped down as rain
You and your crops survived
When you and your animals were suffocating to death
You sat under my thick shade
You took my bad breath
And I took your bad one too
You and your animals survived

Oh Man! Oh Man! Oh Man!

For life on Earth
Let me multiply
And you will multiply too




For more information on the project, visit:




So, tell me.  What sorts of projects do you see that generate real progress for the human spirit around the globe?  Modern day anthropology is as much the study of current social structures as it is of those that came before us.  In what ways can we contribute to a better understanding of each culture so that we can improve the life circumstances of others without eradicating their own special heritage?


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