I wrote a few months back about Northern Uganda and the years of conflict that left the economy shattered and people traumatised: https://radhikadil.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/northern-uganda-green-and-pristine/
On Thursday, I attended ‘Victors Express’, an exhibition of paintings by youth from Northern Uganda. Most of the artists have lived experiences of mental ill health. Basic Needs Foundation Uganda (http://www.basicneeds.org/uganda/), the organiser of the exhibition works with youth who have suffered from mental ill health to facilitate their engagement in economic, political and social development programmes.
The paintings had simple subjects and depicted simple aspirations of young people, some of whom have suffered directly from the war, either as victims of atrocities or because they have been forced to commit atrocities themselves. Encouragingly, most paintings depict hope and change. This one, called ‘Business as Usual’ by Abalo Fiona from Nwoya District depicts a scene quite uncommon till a few years back: A well groomed business-woman going about her business in a village. She has a mobile phone that is charged by a solar panel (there is little electricity provided by the grid in the North) and she has a house thats a permanent structure, a mark of status in villages where most dwellings are mud, wood and thatch.
This one, called Once Upon a Tilling by social worker Ojok Francis, perhaps my favourite because of the vibrant colours, depicts a folk tale about two boys in a village where the war is over but everyone still feels hopeless and ‘blue’. Two bulls arrive and absorb everyone’s blues. The boys use the bulls to till their land and live happily ever after. The simplicity of needs in these paintings is a brutal reminder of how damaging war can be.
This painting, called ‘Bend it like Benson’ by Oneka John Benson from Lamogi depicts the role sports play in war torn and troubled region. Despite the trauma youth have to suffer, they are able to enjoy a game of football and temporarily forget their worries.
This is also the subject of my cousin’s recent film, The Only Real Game. The movie is about the role baseball plays in the lives of people living in crippling conditions in the militancy stricken state of Manipur in India. The documentary is screening in Mumbai next week, so if you are around, do go and watch: https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/The-Only-Real-Game/141790055980724
I must add as a DFID employee, that Basic Needs Foundation Uganda is funded by DFID to carry out this work and it is heartening to see a real impact on people. Finally, the Victors Express exhibition is still on till Sunday 20th October, at Garden city rooftop, and is open until late. So if you are in Kampala, do visit and witness for yourself the splendor of color, emotion and hope.