Oscar Senyonga’s Ugandan art story told

06:44 by Kaggwa Andrew

Over a year back, artists almost lost their minds when the president called the arts useless, regardless of the noise that was made on social media, radios or TV, no one from the president’s office came up to address the situation.
Yet, during the just concluded presidential elections, many artists were used to woo voter to the different camps involved.
And they were issues like these that dancer Oscar Senyonga was emphasizing in his Dance Week Festival performance titled Tremble.
Clad in a dark tan trouser and a light blue shirt and a pair of sports shoes, the dreadlocked Senyonga, also a member of Mambya Dance Company starts the performance on the ground, his backdrop is a white house and he’s seemingly enjoying to swim in the sand that is in front of it.
Most of the moves he was doing seemed to come easy off his body, throwing his legs in the air and at times dipping he head in the sand, standing up making gestures like he was enjoying the praise he was receiving.
The opening soundtrack was African folk music mostly played in isolation, for instance, most of the times they only included a solo instrument, a flute, xylophone or thumb piano.

Like an artist, the piece shows at the beginning of the journey, especially when people’s talents have just been discovered, the world is proud of you and they indeed want to show you off; “They will let you dance, draw or even act because it pleases them to tell people your part of such activities.”
He notes that this part of the performance was a representation of his beginnings back in 2006, the reason it was more subtle and laidback was because when he was starting, it was all easy since everyone around him had no problem with him being a dancer.
But as he’s story and the dance progress, the energy changes, we see him become more aggressive sometimes he even had his feet stuck in the sand and he would struggle to retrieve it.
The part of the performance was a sign of the change in attitude, for instance at the beginning of an art journey, children get support when they grow up and try to persue the passion for a living, they get criticized, insulted and the doubters double.
This time the moves were aggressive and his facial expressions were mostly in pain, as if he was struggling not only for space but recognition and a right to co-exist, there was incidents where he would kick the sand s if it was  waste only to end up treasuring it later.
“Sand was used as a collage because it’s that one ingredient that is used to build many of the fancy structures we have in this country, yet the people that extract it are at the bottom of all circles,” he said.
He connected the sand notation to that of the arts, saying that people use music, dance or visual arts for recreation and communication purposes, yet they turn around and trash artists as worthless.
The performance was timely especially with a fact that the Saturday Dance Week performances had to be delayed an hour and half later after the theater management double booked with a circus show and later advising the festival organisers to do their ‘thing’ in the gardens.
“Even a fact that we were double booked proves that art is considered useless even by the people that get their paycheck directly from the arts,” he said.
Much as the moves were out of this world, the message was worth every minute and there was no better way to finish it off than a sound bite talking about art shaping the society yet being passed off as useless.
It wasn’t surprising Oscar got the audience on its feet.

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