RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: October 2012

50 years on – can we build on our diversity?




Today, in 1962, Uganda celebrate her first Independence day.  At midnight the flag of the Protectorate was lowered, and the new national flag of Uganda was raised.  And these were the emblems put on the gates of Parliament (not sure when exactly).  It was a hopeful time.  I had always believed that the road to Independence was an easy one, and we started that journey in 1962 as one nation.  As I have grown older I have began doing research on Uganda, and reading the history of Uganda as told by Ugandans about Ugandans.  In school it was often told from the perspective of the colonialists.  We learnt about Speke and Stanley and Lugard.  We did not learn about I.K. Musaazi, and Apollo Kironde and Abubaker Mayanja and a many of other Ugandans and how they lobbied for independence.  The fact that the political parties were split on ethnic AND religious grounds even as the new flag was raised was underplayed.  Maybe it was hoped that somehow we would transcend the divisions…
The fact is that these divisions have played such a central role in our lives.  People have received cars, jobs, education, opportunities because of their ethnicity or religious allegiance or the political party which they supported.  People have lost lives, lost hope, resources have been depleted because if truth be told, while we are ‘Proudly Ugandan’ on one level, when push comes to shove we remember that ‘he or she is not a Muganda /Itesot/ Acholi/Mukiga/Muhororo … or whatever.  Or that ‘these Catholics/Muslims/born-agains… .  And our politics sometimes stoop to the level of the colour of the clothes we wear!!  Do you remember a time when during elections people consciously chose to wear or not to wear particular colours?  I am not sure if it is still happening now.  Green meant you were for DP, Red for UPC, Yellow for NRM and who knows what else.

My dream for the next 50 years and more is we remember that a healthy ecosystem thrives on diversity!  We remember that life is healthy, challenging, beautiful, stimulating because of diversity.  We live in the belief and understanding that the mind works better when there are questions asked, when ideas do not sit quite well together, when people see things differently and are willing to listen to each other, to meet each other.  That is how it was meant to be.  My dream is that for the next 50 years we use our differences to our advantage.  That we weave such a beautiful tapestry of national identity that is bold and strong and we hold that before us, so that when we start to get petty about our differences we can look at it and remember it is because we are different that we are so beautiful, so strong, so able to do what we do.  

Inspired by Mr Miyagi


I had just fetched Victor’s visa from the German Consulate in Cape Town and had about an hour and a half before it was time to fetch Christopher from school.  So I decided to go to the Company Gardens and do some work on my laptop.  It is full of old trees, birds and squirrels – just the kind of inspiration I needed.  You see, I love the trees.  I often stop and take random pictures of trees, and my children – they just don’t understand why.  Trees make me smile.  I look at a tree and my heart skips a beat because of the way its arms stretch out towards me, or the way the sun kisses its leaves, or because of the beauty of its bareness, when all the leaves have fallen off.  I look at the thick trunk of an old tree and wonder, if it could talk, what stories would it tell?  Trees ground me – they give me a real sense of history, of belonging and of hope.

So I went to the Company Gardens to be inspired, and walked in to a Bonsai Exhibition!  It was like finding money in the pockets of a coat you wore last winter!  There were all sorts of bonsais and even a few that were over 100 years old!!!!  And they had not been inherited, no.

I spoke to some  people there, from the Bonsai Clubs, about growing and caring for bonsais.  I found out that sometimes a big tree is slowly ‘grown’ into a small tree.  It is taken from the wild, planted into a big basin, and as parts die they are cut off, and then it is replanted into a smaller basin, and finally into a small pot!  It is a labour of love.  The art of creating Bonsai tree from a 100-year-old tree made me think of the art of writing a poem.  I often start from a lot of rambling – sometimes even a piece of prose, that does not really sit well.  And then by slowly ‘pruning’ what I have written going from one draft to the next, sometimes leaving it untouched for years, I arrive at a poem that says exactly what it needs to say, with just enough words, and not losing the essence of what I set out to say.

As I took pictures I met a man who was gently spraying the trees with water.  Although he was not displaying any of his own trees, he has a shop that sells them, and has been teaching people how to grow them for the last 15 – 20 years! He had turned a hobby into his work.  I asked him, ‘What made you start growing Bonsai?’  And he smiled and said, ‘Mr. Miyagi – you know, in the Karate Kid.’  I laughed and said, ‘You’re not serious!’ And he said, ‘I am.  The first time I saw the Bonsai was in Karate Kid, and I decided I wanted to grow one.  So I researched them, and looked for people who could teach me, and the rest…  well, its history!”

%d bloggers like this: