MAK empowers refugees through theatre

The Dean, School of Liberal and Performing Arts, Assoc. Prof. Patrick Mangeni (R), with some of the trainers and performers at the National Theatre

Some of the refugees in a performance at the National TheatreThe School of Liberal and Performing Arts, Makerere University in partnership with InterAid Uganda is undertaking a number of projects aimed at enhancing the skills of refugees in various fields, specifically performing arts. This follows an agreement InterAid Uganda entered with Makerere University on 18th December, 2015 to promote creative, educational and cultural collaborations, especially in the areas of music, dance, drama, film and the creative industries.

Besides enhancing their skills in performing arts, the MoU sets out to promote joint research on matters affecting refugees so as to improve service delivery at community level. It also provides for internship/field attachment opportunities at various branches of InterAid Uganda.

In the first project, members of staff from the Department of Performing Arts and Film trained a group of 30 urban refugees, mainly Congolese and Rwandese in a Musical Theatre Production titled “WE CAN” (TUNAWEZA). TUNAMWEZA is a story that presents the dreams, aspirations, anxieties and challenges that confront refugees before and after they have left their countries of origin. The story is told through traditional music, live band music, rap, Hip Hop, traditional dance, contemporary and modern dance, body percussion, mime and street dance. It was presented at the National Theatre on 30th January, 2016. The project was supported by, among others, UNHCR and the Office of the Prime Minister. 

According to the Dean of the School of Liberal and Performing Arts, also overall Director and Producer of Tunaweza, Assoc. Prof. Patrick Mangeni, the performers in the various projects are selected from drama groups in refugee communities through auditions conducted by the trainers. The trainers include Ms Anita Asasira Desire and Mr Ronald Kibirige (music trainers), Mr Ssembatya Edward and Mr Ssemanda Gerald (dance trainers) as well as Ms Lilian Mbabazi (artistic director).  

The School of Liberal and Performing Arts, working with InterAid Uganda, links the trained refugees with potential employers with the aim of empowering and integrating them into Ugandan communities.

In the next phase of the project, the School intends to develop performing arts courses for refugees. It also intends to empower women through applied theatre.






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