There are inevitably a few things that will stand out in your memories on any travel you undertake. As a photographer, my photos will help with those memories, but it’s also the visceral feeling you get when you have memories of a place you visit. With COVID now making it difficult to travel, I rely more and more on those memories. One of those fantastic experiences was learning how to dance and play traditional drums in Uganda.
Dancing and Drumming Is Just One of the Fun Activities we do in Uganda.
On my first photography tour in 2018, and the day before embarking on my first photography workshop with Cameras For Girls, we headed to @UKC Centre, built by my friend Maylynn Quan. When we arrived, we toured the property and saw the fantastic brick bottle hut they created out of used plastic bottles and mud. We were then treated to some matoke, which is the national dish of Uganda. This dish comes from the locally harvested and grown plantain, which you will find growing everywhere in Uganda. Growing up, my mom would steam this, and then we would put chicken curry on top, or if you in Uganda, you can get home-made peanut (called groundnuts in Uganda) sauce to put on top. Yummy in my tummy is an under-rated expression when it comes to peanut sauce and Matoke.
After the sumptuous and very filling meal, the local boys played the drums and hand-made string instruments while the girls danced the traditional and cultural dances for us. It was incredible that Josephine, a trained dancer with the Ndere Dance troupe, was eight months pregnant and gyrating her hips like it was nothing. When it was my turn to get a dance lesson, I could not even keep up with her and the other young ladies. However, it was the most fun I had had dancing in many years and still a warm memory to this day.
See the video of me trying to keep up with these amazing dancers.
Since I was a young child, my mom said I could dance before I could even fully walk or run. I would stand in my crib and rock myself to the beat of African music. Having come from Uganda at the age of 3, we always played African music at home. It helped us keep those memories of our lives in Uganda alive.
I mentioned in a previous blog that immigrating to Canada was not by choice. We were among thousands of Indian’s who were thrown out of Uganda almost overnight by then-president Idi Amin.
I directed and filmed a documentary entitled “Return to Exile” in 2007, which happened to coincide with my first visit back to see our home country. Return to Exile documented this tragic time with archival footage and many Asian-Indians’ return to Uganda in the early ’90s. I was lucky enough to interview many returning Asians and see how life had transformed positively by moving back to Uganda.
However, I wasn’t prepared for what I would see upon my first visit home. I grew up listening to the beautiful stories of my parent’s lives and seeing photos of Uganda when there were only 100,000 living in the capital city of Kampala. Life was easy-going and carefree for the Indian subset. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Black-Africans, and unfortunately, it is still that way decades after this tumultuous event. The divide between the rich Indians and the poor Africans would be the basis for Idi-Amin exiling the Indians as he had bankrupted the country and needed a scapegoat to take the fall.
When I first returned to Uganda, I did not expect to see close to 2-million people crammed into the size of a city smaller than Toronto. I did not expect to see the level of poverty, which hurt me to my core. I did not know that the homes that once belonged to our family at large would either be torn down or, worse, be given to Idi Amin’s soldiers. He needed a way to pay them and an excuse to take our properties, jewelry, clothing, keepsakes, and household goods we had to leave behind. The items left behind were distributed among his soldiers to keep them loyal. It was heartbreaking as I realized that our history was lost and gone forever, and I could not give that gift of that time back to my parents.
It was an unrelenting assault on my soul and my senses, BUT I did not fail to notice all the beautiful things about my visit back too. For instance, the people in Uganda are the warmest and most welcoming people you will ever meet. They don’t have much but what they do have is a gracious and welcoming spirit that envelops you and keeps you hostage in your heart. This spirit is what keeps me going back time and time again. Most importantly, I did not fail to notice that for the youngest and smallest of African countries, Uganda has so much to offer its visitors, who decide to embark on a solo-travel, family vacation, or even a photography tour with yours truly. With so much to see and do in Uganda, you can design a tour built for you.
Hence a big part of why I quit my good-paying job as a mortgage broker in 2017 and embarked on a journey to transform girls’ and women’s lives in Uganda through my Cameras For Girls program.
When I put together an itinerary to take visitors from Canada, the US, and Europe on an 18-day photography tour of Uganda, my excitement rises as I think of all the experiences we provide to our guests. Everything from Gorilla trekking, chimp trekking, two safari’s, viewing waterfalls, climbing and hiking in the Rwenzori mountains, and more.
Cultural dancing and drumming is everywhere you go in Uganda.
You can read more about the UKC Centre my friend Maylynn built over five years ago. The center serves the local population with tribal dance and music lessons, and it also serves as the local place to come for their medical needs.
Please read about my trip to visit the center and the awe-inspiring brick bottle hut she built with the community.
For one of the smallest African countries, Uganda is home to 54 different tribes that speak different dialects, have different meanings to their cultural and tribal dances and percussion beats. When I am in Uganda, I get immense pleasure, and I cannot help but dance to the beat. The ladies had a good laugh as I tried very hard to gyrate my hips similarly. After three back surgeries, I was proud of how far I could go. 😂
The photos below are the memories from my visit to the UKC Center in Bombo Town, just outside of Kampala.
Speaking of other fun activities in Uganda.
Check out our numerous posts on our blog as we discuss gorilla trekking in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, chimp trekking in Kibale National Park, Safari in Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth National Park, or Lake Mburo National Park. We also show off the bountiful and beautiful nature such as Semulik National Park, where you will see the male and female hot springs, or Amabere Ga Nyima Wiru, a local treasure with hidden waterfalls in an open cave and so much more.