On 31st March, 2017, the Department of Performing Arts and Film, Makerere University, together with the Norwegian University College of Dance laid the foundation stone for the Centre for Performing Arts. The laying of the foundation stone was part of the two-day “opening the Department of Performing Arts and Film to the community” event that took place on 31st March-1st April, 2017 in the University Freedom Square. The event was presided over by the Ambassador of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Uganda, H.E. Susan Eckey.
The Centre for Performing Arts is a collaborative project between Makerere University Department of Performing Arts and Film and The Norwegian University College of Dance. The two institutions have had a relationship since 2010 with the renewal of the MOU in 2016 to support, among other things, fundraising towards building the Centre and staff as well as student capacity development.
According to the Head of the Department of Performing Arts and Film at Makerere University, Assoc. Prof. Sylvia A. Nannyonga–Tamusuza, construction of the Centre will cost 20 million US dollars. “We expect to generate this money from fundraising drives in Norway and Uganda. We call upon all the alumni and well wishers of the Department and the Performing Arts industry in general to support this venture. I wish to thank the Norwegian University College of Dance for all the support extended towards this project thus far. I also pass on our sincere appreciation to Makerere University Management for the support and guidance rendered to the Department in its endeavor to set up the centre. The University has already allocated land for the Centre and through the College, we will provide budgeting for this activity,” she said.
Assoc. Prof. Sylvia A. Nannyonga-Tamusuza said the University had instituted a committee to lead the fundraising drive for the project. Members of the Makerere University Performing Arts and Film Centre (MAPAFIC) Committee include Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Finance and Administration (Chairperson); Prof. Edward, K. Kirumira, Principal, CHUSS; Assoc. Prof. Sylvia A. Nannyonga–Tamusuza, Head, Department of Performing Arts and Film (Secretary); Dr Florence Nakayiwa, Director, Directorate of Planning and Development Department; Assoc. Prof. Patrick Mangeni, Dean, School of Liberal and Performing Arts; Dr Venny Nakazibwe, Deputy Principal, College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology; Ms Lillian Mbabazi, representative from the Department of Performing Arts and Film (Drama); Mr. Steven Kasamba, representative from the Department of Performing Arts and Film (Music); and Mr. Robert Kiwanuka, representative from the Makerere University Performing Arts and Film Alumni Association.
According to the press release issued by the Department of Performing Arts and Film, the Centre for Performing Arts will occupy a space of 8,000sq Meters at a site located on Plot 36 Flame Tree, near the Makerere University Guest House. It will house the Department of Performing Arts and Film and will have facilities including, but not limited to: a 350-seater theatre, 12 acoustically treated classrooms, 2 music studios, a 200-seater auditorium, 3 dance studios/rehearsal rooms, 10 music practice rooms, a library, audio-visual archive, office space, and a cafeteria. These facilities will not only be used for offering training, but also for providing income generating services and outreaches that will help sustain the Centre and the University in general.
In addition to housing the existing academic programmes, the Centre will offer specialized practical skills training in music, dance, drama, film, arts management, public speaking, among others, as certificate and non-certificate programmes. The Centre will also facilitate research and enhance the Makerere University Klaus Wachsmann Audio-visual Archive for documentation and archiving the performing arts and the University activities.
Other quality income generating services at the Centre will include among others: theatrical productions, film productions, audio-visual recording studio, Makerere University Live Band, Makerere University Dance Company; Makerere University Choir and Troupe; Makerere University Theatricals rehearsal and conference space.
In her remarks, Assoc. Prof. Sylvia A. Nannyonga–Tamusuza noted that whereas the Department of Performing Arts and Film was established in 1971 and had since evolved, with several achievements, its progress had been hampered by the limited infrastructural resources. “Therefore, the overarching goal of the Centre is to improve and strengthen the Performing Arts and Film industry in Uganda so as to realize its social-cultural, political and economic potential through facilitating training, research, and service delivery that measures to international standards.”
Speaking at the ceremony, Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Prof. John Ddumba-Ssentamu, congratulated the leadership and staff of the Department of Performing Arts and Film upon the initiative of setting up a performing arts centre. “The state of the art facility will not only help improve the teaching and learning of performing arts and film at Makerere University but will greatly contribute to the development of the performing arts industry in Uganda and the entire East African region. This is a great milestone for the Department which has had infrastructural challenges since its establishment in 1971,” he said. The Vice Chancellor, on behalf the University Management, expressed gratitude to the Royal Norwegian Government for its continued support to Makerere University. “Specifically, I wish to use this opportunity to thank our friends from the Norwegian University College of Dance under the leadership of Prof. Ann. Kristin Norum for supporting the activities of the Department of Performing Arts and Film here at Makerere University. As many of you may be aware, the Norwegian University College of Dance has been collaborating with the Department since 2010. In 2016, it renewed its partnership with the Department and the main area of mutual cooperation is fundraising towards building the Centre. We are indeed grateful and welcome more support from other partners as we strive to make a contribution to the development of the performing arts industry in Uganda,” he said.
The Vice Chancellor also appreciated the entire Department of Performing Arts and Film led by Assoc. Prof. Sylvia A. Nannyonga-Tamusuza for their efforts towards reviving the glory of the Department. “Their efforts of reviving the glory of the Department are materializing through this project, particularly since the launch of the PAF Reloaded Strategic Plan 2015-2020. Together with members of staff and students of the Department, Assoc. Prof. Tamusuza has led the process of actualizing the objectives of the PAF Reloaded Strategic Plan including i) improving productivity, staff and student welfare; ii) resource mobilisation; and iii) infrastructure as well as research and project development.”
The Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Finance and Administration, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, said he was extremely delighted for having been asked to chair the fundraising committee for the Centre and was hopeful that the plan that has been in discussion since he joined Makerere University 30 years ago would soon be realized. “The diverse culture of the people of Uganda shall forever be immortalized in the Centre. Since Uganda is a summary of Africa, the support from Norway is not only important to Uganda but the entire African Continent. We therefore extend our sincere appreciation to the people of Norway for their contribution to the advancement of black culture,” he said. Prof. Nawangwe appealed for support from all sectors towards the construction of the $20 million Centre for Performing Arts.
In her address, the Ambassador of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Uganda, H.E. Susan Eckey, said the laying of the foundation stone marked an important milestone in the journey to establishing a home for the Department of Performing Arts and Film at Makerere University. “The foundation stone we are laying today is for a centre that will enable Makerere University and Uganda to rise to the next level in the training and nurturing of young people of Uganda in further appreciating the role of performing Arts within the cultural context of Uganda. This Performing Arts Centre will further cement the role of Makerere University as a leading institution of learning and innovation,” she explained. H.E. Susan Eckey thanked the leadership of CHUSS and the University in general for their support towards the project. She also appreciated the leadership of the Department of Performing Arts and Film at Makerere University and the Norwegian University College of Dance for their “strong commitment towards the project”. “The driving forces behind this project, Assoc. Prof. Sylvia A. Nannyonga – Tamusuza and Prof. Ann Kristin Norum have made this possible. We sincerely appreciate their efforts,” she said.
Like others, the Principal of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS), Prof. Edward K. Kirumira, congratulated the leadership, staff and students of the Department of Performing Arts and Film upon the initiative. “Today we celebrate a significant landmark in our infrastructural growth. With the construction of the Centre, you will have an expanded execution of your mandate as a centre of academic and practical excellence in training and offering leadership to the performing arts and film industry in Uganda and the region,” he said. Prof. Kirumira further appreciated the Central Administration of Makerere University for allocating space for the Centre.
The Dean, School of Liberal and Performing Arts, Assoc. Prof. Patrick Mangeni, appreciated all those who have supported the Department of Performing Arts and Film in its 46-year long journey of setting up a performing arts centre. He said the task ahead is “big but achievable” and pledged support towards the project.
During the ceremony to lay the foundation stone, architects from MARK Group in Norway unveiled the plan for the Centre.
Other activities carried out at the two-day “opening the Department of Performing Arts and Film to the community” event included exhibitions by, among others, Film 256, the Makerere University Convocation, the Dance, Drama and Film Units at Makerere University, Barclays Bank Ready to Work Project, MARK Group from Norway and House of Talents. The aim of the open-day events was to showcase the activities of the Department of Performing Arts and Film to communities within and outside the University.
The event was crowned with a dance festival in which selected upcoming troupes and companies competed in difference dance categories including; ethnic dances, jazz, contemporary, and hiphop dance.