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Why recognising artistes as national heroes is worthwhile

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Added 23rd June 2017 11:48 AM

This has been long overdue but better late than never

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This has been long overdue but better late than never

By Robert Musiitwa

When it came clear that artistes were among those to be awarded with medals of National Hero’s 2017, we all held our breath waiting to see who will be awarded. After the ceremony, below are some of the comments that come up; without revealing the sources, I will present them verbatim:

·     "This is the plan, let us go give out medals to the artists we know...... "

·     Your Excellence what a hero is Kato Lubwama unless heroes has lost meaning,

·     Heroes circus as M7 declares comedians Kato Lubwama, Kakyapizo heroes

·     I have always been waiting for a day when the government would recognize artists. Yesterday, it happened, some friends of mine got medals but it doesn't take away the fact that it was a very big joke.

Irrespective of who received the award and whether they deserved it or not, it is worth noting that at last the Government has recognised the role Art and Culture played in bringing the current government to power. Probably President Museveni would still be referred to as a guerrilla or perhaps he would have given up the struggle long time ago. I also use this platform to congratulate Kiyimba Musisi and other artistes upon this prestigious award. You made us proud.

Indeed this has been long overdue but better late than never.

Besides, just bringing the current government to power, art has been widely used in Uganda to bring about peace and reconciliation, create awareness about epidemics, and bring healing and transformation in society, preach against social and political injustices, therapy among others. 

This shows that Art in the society does not only exist for entertainment although entertainment is also part of it but in most cases it expresses something, it is the mirror to the society. It is this something that certain people want to tell other, giving people a voice to articulate themselves. Now that the government of Uganda has seen the role Art plays in society it is time to support this creative industry just beyond giving medals

In countries like China, Japan and India, among their biggest foreign exchange earner is Art and Culture. In Nigeria, creative industry is second to oil in terms of revenue earnings projected at $51m by end 2017 according to Ripples Nigeria. In USA, Hollywood is another big revenue earner. Uganda endowed with talented creative artistes and over 65 indigenous communities with unique characteristics, rich and diverse cultural heritage, we would be earning in billions of dollars though this has not been the case. 

Besides the huge financial potential to the government that Art and Culture sector promises it has the potential to generate employment opportunities and offer a platform to promote talent as a way of livelihood. All that is needed here is for the government to ensure that the creative industry is allocated a budget. Just like other sectors are allocated budgets and given priorities the way it has been done to sectors like agriculture, security and education and others. 

It is on this note that I call upon the legislature, Judiciary and the executive to put Art and the creative industry as a whole at the forefront just like they prioritize other sectors. Secondly operationalise the law in particular the copyright law to enable the creators of the various works benefit from their works.

Uganda has very excellent laws and policies in regard to promoting Arts and Culture and the creative industry as a whole but these documents are still on the shelves. It is therefore important that the government implements them otherwise they will stay ineffective as the industry lags behind

If indeed Uganda is to get into the middle income economy by 2020, then Art and Cultural is a driving force of development, not only with respect to economic growth but also as a means of leading a more fulfilling intellectual, emotional and moral spiritual life.

The writer is the public relations officer of the Uganda National Cultural Centre

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