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Art Fund Revives K’jong Creatives

Former cattle rustler Naboe Ebokot is now an expert and trains others in craft making. PhotoS/ Edgar R. Batte

With support from Kuonyesha Art Fund, many Karimojong youth are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel as they exploit skills.

“Right now, I have changed. I have gained respect from the community. My music has gone far. With the support I received, I have done six songs that are educative, motivating and now aspiring artistes come to me for guidance on how to write lyrics and voice their songs. I have trained six artistes and two dancers.” At the turn of 2019, Benz Pilloza D Karamojong Boy’s plan was to do music that could earn him national appeal. Then Covid-19 broke happened.

When Kuonyesha Art Fund made a call for artistes to apply for support, he was one of the shortlisted artistes from the Karamoja sub-region. He was given Shs5m which he used to record six songs, each at Shs300,000, and two music videos.

Kuonyesha is a programme by CivSource Africa that was established to support artistes of different genres to improve their craft and ultimately the quality of their livelihood. It spans its reach across a multiplicity of art forms, including music, film, fashion & design, tailoring, jewellery making as well as training and mentorships.

A former church choir member and contemporary dancer, Pilloza says when he shares what he knows, he is happy. Most of his fans are from Karamoja and Teso where his music continues gaining traction, and subsequently beyond north-eastern to local borders and onwards.

Ultimately, his plan is to grow well enough to compete with Tanzanian music sensation Diamond Platinumz. Emmy Aleper and Joviah Nangiiro Nakol are also artistes who have used music to tackle societal issues. Nakol, who goes by the stage name Dejustice, is also a fashion designer whose designs celebrate the vibrant Karimojong designs on both clothes and decorative items such as beaded necklaces and forehead laces.

With the two art forms, she provides therapy to those who have been psychologically and physically abused as well as gives them reason to celebrate life for what it is. Namoe Ebokot, a former cattle rustler who has since dropped the cruel behaviour that continues to contribute to the destabilisation of the region and affect its economic growth, has diverted his creative energies to artistically knit colourful caps, hats, and clothes. He does this along with contemporaries and trainees, and they sell to locals and tourists who visit the north-eastern region.

Ebokot says his newfound love for the creative processes allowed him time to reflect on the pain and suffering he caused as a cattle rustler. “I am glad that I met a man of God who preached against cattle rustling. I saw how bad it was and the risks we always exposed our lives to,” Ebokot, who narrates his story through an interpreter, says.

When I visited his shop, I was welcomed by songs and chants from youthful women and men. For a few minutes, the ululations fill the air as children excitedly look on. Like jewellery maker Namoe, Ebokot is presented with a smartphone which Kuonyesha is optimistic will allow him open new frontiers in his trade if he showcases his products online, especially social media channels. The same gift was given to all 12 artists visited in the region. Read more

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