In Conversation with: Kelele at Makerere

Kelele at Makerere team
Kelele Team

Kelele at Makerere is a group of creatives and creative arts enthusiasts from Uganda. We work to promote young and upcoming poets and visual artists. 

How did Kelele come to be? 

We started our operations in 2015. One of our founders Ian Niiwebyona wrote a lot of poetry but soon found out that there were platforms to reach potential readers. So, he set up office in Makerere University and opened a platform at the Art School Gallery every fortnight so that Poets can meet, share and hone their skills. However, we intend to widen our platform as we look to utilise the opportunities the internet offers to creatives in the age.

How has your organisation been received by other creatives?

Creatives have been very excited and eager to work with us especially those within universities because we have filled a big gap for them in that we have given them a platform to express themselves where before there was no such platform within universities. Most platforms were available to mainly professionals which were quite hard to access for amateurs in University. We gave them an opportunity they were thirsty for.

What makes your platform unique?

We have managed to bridge the gap for entry level poets within Makerere University and other universities to have a safe and encouraging place to hone their skills and craft where it would otherwise have been hard for them to follow their dreams. Most of our poets start out very shy, fearing crowds, unable to project their voices and other such limitations. We stick with them patiently as they practice stage performance on our fortnightly sessions until they become great performers. Most other platforms do not stick it out with amateurs.

We are the pioneers of regular poetry sessions within universities and remain the biggest. We have managed to remain consistent in holding fortnightly poetry sessions since 2015 and remain the only poetry platform in Makerere University. We have managed to host international and renown poets like Bhodan Piasecki of Beat Freeks and Lemn Sissay of Manchester University. We managed this through our friendship with the British Council. We are very welcoming and poets from other platforms are always free to perform on our platform.

What is the goal for Kelele in 2020?

We plan to improve grooming our poets for the professional sector. We have given poets a platform to grow but we have not been as effective in providing opportunities for them when they seek to go professional. We intend to work on this in 2020. We also plan to improve our fortnightly sessions, to give the audience a better experience. To make every Kelele session a memorable one for all those in attendance.

We also plan to harness the power of the internet in achieving our goals for example we plan to use social media to make our Kelele brand personable, something we had been neglecting. However, we already rolled out our social media strategy for about two months now and the impact has been immense.

What advice would you offer for creatives who are starting out?

Always set a clear vision for where you want to go with your craft. If you don’t set a clear vision, you will easily lose track and burn out. Look out for a competent team or platform that understands your dream and are willing to offer you all the help you will need.

Stay consistent in the work you put in, the practice you do, and the work you put out. Do not allow yourself to slack. Never stop learning. Keep an open mind and an open heart. There is always something new you can learn in your field that you can use to better yourself and your art.

What is the most difficult thing about pursuing a career as a creative in Uganda? 

Channels for getting paid in creative fields have not been developed yet so most people do not earn from their craft. However, this generation of creatives is very motivated. Ways will be found. Staying relevant can also be a challenge. There are so many creatives out there and they are really good. If one is not well motivated or supported by a good team, one might drown and be forgotten.

Balancing everyday responsibilities like jobs and creative pursuits can be challenging since bills need to be paid but the soul needs its food too. We hope that we can develop a system where both the soul and the bills can both be satisfied by one creative pursuit. 

Kelele at Makerere group picture

What is the best thing about being a creative? 

It gives you mileage. Doing something creative allows someone to understand and arrange their thoughts for example someone doing poetry/creative writing. It is not a secret that creative pursuit is therapeutic. Art allows you to express yourself honestly which helps you to deal with your feelings. Lack of honest expression is one of the causes of mental distress. One gets exposure and many doors can open. 

Which creatives should people be on the lookout for and where can people find their work? 

There is Kagayi Ngobi. He can be contacted on Facebook: Kagayi Ngobi and Twitter: @NgobiPoet. Kagayi is doing some great work with performance poetry and has a few poetry collections like the iconic ‘The Headline That Morning’. You should really check it out. To know how to get a copy, just contact him on Facebook or Twitter. 

There is also Wake, a very talented performance poet and rapper, he can be contacted on Facebook: Mugooda Gordons and Twitter: @wake_256. Wake has some of his works on Twitter. 

There is a Luganda poet called Ssebo Lule. He can also be contacted on Twitter @SseboLule

Nsubuga “Nze” Muhammad, another Luganda poet. He uses @Nzensubuga on Twitter. Very talented performer.

There is an amazing dancer called Allan The Poetic Dancer. He uses Allan The Poetic Dancer on Twitter and Facebook. 

Lus The Poet, who has honed his craft on our platform, uses @LusThepoet on Twitter – Lus The Poet on Facebook.

There is also Obed Obedgiu, our Sessions co-ordinator. He is a wonderful performer himself. @OBED_THE_GREAT on Twitter Obed Obedgiu Kwokuboth Jalmeo on Facebook. 

What are you most proud of about being Ugandan creatives? 

The creative scene in Uganda is underdeveloped which we choose to view as an opportunity. We can come up with strategies which will position us as solution makers or consultants. Ugandans are beginning to view the arts with a new attitude. They are starting to see that the arts have some unique solutions to offer like sensitisation and education. Ugandans are also beginning to have a growing desire to join the arts as a career where before the attitude was that the arts can’t be done as a career since there is no money in them.

Social media

Please follow us, we have a lot of new and amazing content we are rolling out in 2020.

Facebook: Kelele At Makerere

Twitter: @KeleleAtMak

Instagram: Kelele Arts Foundation

2 Comments on “In Conversation with: Kelele at Makerere”

  1. Something I’ve said, still say it and will always say it.
    Kelele was, is and will always be home for me and my poetry. It grew me from scratch. Will always be grateful.
    Once again, thank you Inua for making our voices heard.

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