By Hussein Kiganda
The Pan-African Network for Artistic Freedom(PANAF), a body that fights for the rights of artists in Uganda, which comprises Pearlwood, Uganda Musicians Association(UMA), and Foundation for Human Rights Initiative(FHRI), has found out that the progress of the art industry in the country is hampered by having multiple regulators all working independently to streamline the work of artists.
In their research titled “An Assessment of the Status, Challenges, and Opportunities for Promoting Artistic Freedom in Uganda”, submitted by Ph.D. holder, Michael Muhumuza, a lecturer at Makerere University, regulators such as the Media Council, Uganda Registration Service Bureau(URSB), the Uganda Communications Commission(UCC) and several more are operating to structure the art industry but artists do not know the mandates of each.
“on whether there was an independent artists’ council, representing professional artists, respondents noted that this question was very complex for there were very many bodies that claim to be working for artists, but it was problematic to know the mandates upon which they function,” part of the report says.
Sampling the research on January 27, 2023, at The National Theatre, Michael Muhumuza advised artists to organize themselves into a professional union hence giving them a higher bargaining power to exploit opportunities and advocate for one regulator
“It will help members to form a strong professional body of artists who have the ability to lobby and advocate for constitutional reforms and protection of freedom of expression, including for artists like other developed countries,” Muhumuza said.
The research also shows that the collection of royalties is not institutionally organized and there is no official policy relating to art and artistic rights.
Citing from the research, Aisha Namatovu, the president of Pearlwood, advised that there should be an emphasis on putting up a legal framework to directly streamline the art industry.
“It’s key that we get a legal framework that details on which regulating body we should subscribe to and how our rights will be protected and fought for,” Namatovu said.
Legendary singer Joanita Kawalya noted that the new curriculum is not recognizing the art industry and the institutions that promoted talent have since changed and this was not included in the research. Eunice Achan, the president of the Actors’ Guild added that the research put much focus on the producing section forgoting the employment section, and how loyalties are distributed.
Dr. Livingstone Sewanyana, the founder of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiatives(FHRI) promised to keep supporting the cause of PANAF but urged the government to provide a conducive environment for the art industry.
“We are ready to support you and most importantly we need to make more research to understand the gaps in the industry, and with evidence. We also need to put more effort into advocacy. The government needs to provide a conducive environment for the artists to exercise their rights without fear,” Sewanyana said.
Naumo Juliana Akoryo, the Director of Gender and Community Development in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development promised that the government shall use all efforts to uplift the industry but noted that artists are divided and do not take on the available opportunities from the government.
“I am thankful to Pearlwood, UMA, and other partners because unity is the only way to go. You should also start taking on government opportunities because whenever there is a call for you to contribute to your sector, you do not turn up. There was a call to comment on the education curriculum but artists didn’t send in their comments and the same is with the employment and labour law. Artists do not agree to most of the things we put up for them but afterwards they come back demanding for the same,” Akoryo said.
She called upon artists to strengthen their ties with the government, seek opportunities and take them on.