Several myths surround the process of rainmaking and rain stopping in different communities in Uganda and Africa at large. Different people have claimed to have powers to make or stop rain but there are still a number of unanswered questions as to whether rainmaking is magic, witchcraft or rudimentary science waiting to be discovered. In addition to the existing research, Assoc. Prof. Dominic Dipio in collaboration with the Ma’di Cultural and Development Foundation (MACDEF) carried out further investigations on the practice of rainmaking. According to Assoc. Prof. Dominic Dipio, rainmaking is a disappearing tradition in many African communities and documenting this rare information for archival and educational purposes is simply priceless.
Her documentary film titled; “Rainmaking: A Disappearing Practice” gives an insight into the unique knowledge drawn from conversations with rainmakers of the Ma’di community in Uganda. In unravelling the mysteries surrounding this practice, the film is located at the junction of indigenous knowledge, science and faith. There is minimal use of voice-over narration in the film in order to give prominence to the significant voices in the community, speaking about their cultural heritage. The documentary was officially launched by Mr Augustine Omare Okurut, the outgoing Secretary General Uganda Commission for UNESCO, at a ceremony held at the Uganda National Cultural Centre on 30th May, 2016. In his remarks, Mr. Okurut commended Assoc. Prof. Dominic Dipio for her continued efforts in generating knowledge that is beneficial to communities. “I am pleased to see Makerere University not only teaching and researching but beginning to address community issues,” he said. He called for more investment in activities aimed at preserving culture noting that it is a source of identity and innovation and is instrumental in the development of any community.
Speaking at the ceremony, Assoc. Prof. Dominic Dipio expressed gratitude to Trocaire and MACDEF for the support rendered towards the successful production of the film. She also appreciated Prof. Charles Basalirwa and his student Alex for their scientific contribution in the production of the film. Commenting on her interaction with the Ma’di Community, Assoc. Prof. Dominic Dipio said researchers can generate significant knowledge when they collaborate with communities.
The Head, Department of Literature, Dr Susan Kiguli, said the documentary had its history in a successful research collaboration between the Department of Literature at Makerere University and the Department of Foreign Languages, University of Bergen, Norway.
.“The research collaboration has always had very strong community outreach aims thus we are here to celebrate our link to MACDEF and the tangible result of this documentary. The practice of rainmaking is something that is associated with a number of communities in Africa and many of us hear about it but if asked for details, we would shrug our shoulders and solemnly swear that we do not know beyond the rumour," she said.
Dr Kiguli explained that the production of such works was an endeavor by MACDEF and the Department of Literature to demystify cultural practices labeled exotic. “We do not seek a consensus on these issues but encourage reflection, research and documentation of what is ours from our different points of view,” she said.
She applauded Assoc. Prof. Dominic Dipio for her outstanding contribution to the film industry and the Department of Literature. “This documentary film is a work that anchors on creativity and research to produce a platform for all of us to reflect on what we know, what we think we know and what we can think about. When Assoc. Prof. Dipio started working on this documentary, I remembered other narratives that invoked this practice such as the stories on Rain Queen of Balobedu sensationalized by Sir Rider Haggard, Grace Ogot’s story “The Rain Came” and the stories about the rainmaking powers of the Usagara of Tanzania. Now we can, after watching this documentary, talk about the rainmaking practices among the Ma’di.”
Commenting on Assoc. Prof. Dominic’s exemplary work, the Principal, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Prof. Edward K. Kirumira, called for more community engagement in the production of knowledge. “We are looking forward to more collaboration to bring to the forefront what is now exotic. It’s always good to put support from development partners to proper use so that capacity built continues even when the project ends.”
The Director of Research and Graduate Training at Makerere University, Prof. Buyinza Mukadasi, described cultural practitioners such as rainmakers as a great resource in preserving indigenous knowledge. He called for mentorship of the young generation for continuity of research and development.
Uganda National Cultural Centre Public Relations Officer Robert Musitwa, commended Assoc. Prof. Dominic Dipio and MACDEF for supporting the Centre’s mandate of preserving culture through documentation.