Sunday, February 23, 2014

Different Routes; Same Genesis and Destination: Tracking the Migration of Acholi Dances from northern Uganda to Kampala

The insurgency in Northern Uganda that lasted for mpre than 15 years played havoc with the Acholi people and their dances almost in equal measure. Like any other experiences of armed conflicts, the war in northern Uganda was bound to cause dislocations in the structure, practice, sensibilities, procedures, sentimentalities, and essence of traditional dance forms. The artistic and cultural dislocations were compounded by forced migration that communities endured throughout the entire period of the conflict. This migration took different forms: home to bush (for people that were abducted by the rebels); home to camp (especially internally displaced camps); and home to other place (which saw migration of the Acholi people to other parts of Uganda and beyond). In this entire turn of events, dances survived particularly amongst people that migrated to camps and other parts of Uganda. This article focuses on how these dances survived in ‘exile’, with particular focus on Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. 

The story of the migration of dances and dancers from Acholi sub region to Kampala is akin to the legend that explains the genesis of Acholi tribe of northern Uganda and Alur tribe on north western Uganda: both ethnicities were born out of conflict in which blood was spilled. In the case of Acholi and Alur communities, legend has it that Nyipir and Nyabong, both brothers, had a tiff over a spear and a bead. Nyipir took Nyabong’s spear to hunt. He hit the elephant with the spear and it ran away with it. When he returned home, his brother Nyabong insisted on getting back his spear. Nyipir went back and trailed the elephant until he recovered the spear. This experience was so painful for him. Shortly after his return, Nyabong’s daughter swallowed Nyipir’s bead. Nyipir demanded to have his bead back. Nyabong painfully accepted that his daughter be cut to recover the bead. The girl was cut and the bead was recovered. It is this spilling of blood that caused an irreconcilable squabble between the two brothers. They parted ways, never to see each other again. Nyipir wandered and crossed river Nile at Pakwach. He settled in West Nile area and gave birth to the current Alur tribe. Labong stayed on one side of the river and his family expanded to form the current Acholi tribe.

It is as if the migration of Acholi dances to Kampala was an incarnation of the Nyipir and Nyabong separation. It is worth noting that the migration of these dances took dual trajectories: the Watmone (derived from Watmone dancing troupe) and Ndere (derived from Ndere troupe) trajectory. These two experiences are going to be the focus of this essay.  Quite significantly, the two trajectories, like the Nyipir and Nyabong separation, were born as a result of conflict (Acholi insurgency), where blood of thousands of Acholi people was spilled. We can conclude that these related trajectories came from the womb of human blood. What is more, both the Nyipir-Nyabong separation and Acholi-to-Kampala migration of dances involved crossing river Nile, the former at Pakwach and the latter at Karuma. As Nyipir-Nyabong split gave birth to two formidable ethnic groups that are still flourishing, migration of Acholi dances to Southern Uganda has has supported two dance troupes that have prospered in Kampala. 

Let us now track the migration of the Acholi dance trajectories. As I earlier noted, the exodus of Acholi dances to other parts of Uganda owes a good deal to the northern insurgency that lasted for more than 15 years. Normally, when conflicts emerge, people in the affected communities migrate. Some people migrates with their physical belongings, others do not.  However, one commonality between those who migrate with their physical belongings and those who do not is that they both migrate with some of their cultural practices. They both migrate with their cultural belongings. Music and dance is one of these cultural belongings. 

The Watmone path had Acholi people migrate to Kampala to form a dance troupe under the stewardship of Matthew Watmon. As Watmon notes: “When the war intensified, I decided to come and settle in Kampala from where Iformed a dancing troupe…” The Watmone route was more about the Acholi people migrating with their artistry and figuring out how to situate it and make it relevant and survive in the new environment in Kampala. The troupe set out to focus on dances from the Acholi sub-region. The Ndere trajectory presented a different dynamic. Ndere troupe was already established as early as 1988 as a performing group with a national outlook and character. When the conflict escalated, Ndere started to co-opt both dancers and dances from Acholi region to form the repertory of the troupe. The inclusion of Acholi artistry into Ndere troupe leaned towards expropriation of dances from Acholi region and appropriating them in Kampala. If these two ajectories have managed to survive in 'exile' (Kampala), what dynamic underpins their identity? What strategies have the two troupes taken to have dance artistry from Acholi region flourish? It is to the differences in strategy and experiences between these two troupes that we now turn.

A clear analysis reveals that the Watmone experience has been insulatory in every sense of the word while the Ndere trajectory is expansionist in nature and intent.

The Watmone experience has always been insulatory, and is anchored in self-preservation. This is born out of internal cultural consciousness. The Acholi dances performed by Watmone arrived in Kampala as a victim seeking asylum. Although the new environment has tampered with some aspects of their performance, Watmone dance performances are true to the aesthetic and cultural sensibilities, complexities, simplicities, and polities of dances from Acholi region. Until now, they have specialized in performing dances from Acholi region. They have striven to remain true to the Acholi artistic ethic. Their target audience has always been people from Northern Uganda, although they have expanded to serve both other national and international populations. Like Jews who have been able to retain, practice, and cherish their culture in exile, Watmone have succeeded in insulating their Acholi artistic practices against any excessive external influences and excesses that come with living in the new environment. Watmone has succeeded in striking a balance between art for wo/man’s sake and art for money’s sake. Commercialization has not significantly diluted the true ethos of Acholi dance aesthetic that the group is committed to preserve, present, and represent. The dancers understand the artistry, aesthetic, semiotics, and anthropology of the dances. Watmone has once again proved that traditional dances can migrate and still retain their true character and form. The group has relied on the commercial to reinforce self and cultural preservation. The songs, instrumentation, technique, and in some cases costume represent the true nature of Acholi dance artistry. The troupe has continued to embrace ethnic singularity, glorify artistic endogamousity, and cultural exclusivity.  
Watmone performers playing Acholi music
If the Watmone course is insulatory, how expansionist is the Ndere trajectory? I earlier mentioned that right from the onset, Ndere troupe exuded national character and outlook in terms of its artistic repertory and ethnic originality of performers. The repertory ranged from traditional dances of tribes in Western, Northern, Eastern, and Central Uganda, although their foundation has always been dances from Western and South Western Uganda. As such, appropriation of Acholi dances was meant to enrich the national abundance of the troupe. It was another ethno-artistic dish added to the national artistic buffet of the troupe. Acholi dances arrived in Ndere as a refugee seeking not only survival but also expansion. The primary objective of the group was not to preserve dances from Acholi. Rather, the goal was to have representation of Acholi artistry in the national artistic umbrella. But this does not tell the whole story, neither does it paint a complete expansionist picture. Expansionism is best reflected in the nature of performers in the troupe. Whereas Watmone is primary constituted of dancers from Acholi, Ndere has dancers from various ethnicities in Uganda. These dancers were able to learn and perform dances from Acholi even though they do not come from this ethnic community. Consequently, these dances were able to cross demographic and ethnic boundaries. The Ndere experience has always celebrated national plurality, glorified artistic promiscuity, and valued aesthetic exogamousity.

We cannot talk about expansionism and ignore the artistic and aesthetic alternations that Ndere have inflicted on the dances from Acholi. Art bows to change in the face of money and commerce. Commercialization unlocks artistic and cultural rigidity. Once art becomes a for-money activity, trade patterns and commerce imprison it.  It clings to and swings on the rules of demand and supply. As a commercial dance troupe, Ndere has altered a number of elements of Acholi dances such as costume, accompaniment, makeup, etc to appeal to the interests of the clients. There has been expansion in the internal taxonomy of the dances (how and why dances are performed), for good or worse.

Ndere troupe performing Larakaraka dance from Acholi. The costume is colorful enough to attract the eye and the sound is amplified to sink in the ears of the audience.  
How about target audience? Is this expansionism reflected in the audience targeted? The answer to the preceding question seems to be in the positive. The audience has a good deal to answer for for this expansionism. The audience for Ndere is very diverse. Unlike Watmone, which primarily target communities from the greater north who live in Kampala, Ndere troupe’s audience covers a wide range of ethnic fabric and geographical space. The troupe has performed in a number of international events, too.

Nowhere has this expansionist approach manifested itself than in breakaway troupes that have seceded from Ndere troupe. Ndere is a womb that has given birth to a number of troupes in Uganda. Formers performers of the troupe have gone ahead to form their own independent troupe. In doing this, they have expanded the artistic legacy and philosophy of Ndere troupe, which included performance of dances from Acholi sub region. What is more, Ndere troupe sends out its performers to train students in schools that perform in school-based, regional, and national dance festivals and competitions. In some instances, these performers have taught Acholi dances the way they learned then in the troupe. This is yet another expansionist branch.

In this essay, we have noted that the migration of dances from Acholi to Kampala took two major dual trajectories: the Watmone trajectory and the Ndere trajectory. These two trajectories owe a good deal to the initial brotherly split between Nyipir and Nyabong. Like the legend of Nyipir and Nyabong, the Acholi dances migrated to the south as a result of conflict where blood was spilled. Both Nyipir-Nyabong and the migration of Acholi dances to the south involved crossing of river Nile.  The former at Pakwach, and the latter at Karuma.  The dual trails of the migration Acholi dances down South have continued to flourish. The Watmone trajectory is much more insulatory, sensitive to Acholi cultural sensibilities, and true to the artistic aesthetic. It is anchored in ethnic singularity. The Ndere trajectory is much more expansionist and inter/nationalistic. It derives its trues identity from national plurality. This expansionism has manifested itself in the way the dances have been structurally, aesthetically, taxonomically, and semiotically altered to conform to the market forces of demand and supply. Furthermore, Ndere has spread Acholi dances to diverse ethnic population through performances, training, and mothering of other dance troupes. 

Alfdaniels Mabingo is a Fulbright fellow at New York University

Thursday, January 2, 2014

What Dance Means to a Child in Africa

In African ethnic cultures, dance and music are primarily meant to prepare an individual for life, not for a job or career. A mother produces three babies: the actual baby, music and dance. Before and after a child is born, music and dance act as an umbilical cord that links the child to the environment and people around him/her. Whereas dance practices have considerably changed in urban areas, majority of communities especially in sub-urban and rural areas have preserved and retained authentic aspects of dance practices. In this article, I explore how dance is an integral part of child growth and development, and the implications of this artistic, creative and performative experience to children and the wider community in sub-urban and rural areas.

To begin with, dance is part and partial of each and every stage of human growth and development. a person interacts with dance before they are born until after they pass on (fertility dances, birth dances, children dances, rites of passage dances, wedding dances, ritual dances, religious dances, funeral dances). Dance is the link that connects the emotional, spiritual, mental, social, political, physical, intellectual, affective and philosophical beings that reside in each person. But for dance to play this role in a person’s life, how s/he interfaces with, assimilates, and gets oriented into it plays a key role. For that matter, pre-birth and toddlerhood encounter with dance forms the foundation in which subsequent artistic experiences are anchored.

African mothers are not into the stroller culture.  A child picks the pulse, rhythm, and movement while at the back of the mother or any caretaker.
Before giving birth, expectant mothers are encouraged to participate in music and dance performances. By participating in  performances, an expectant mother invites the unborn child to be a passive participant in the performance. This child gets both music and physical mobility by extension. The baby virtually experiences every moment that its mother produces. This means that at the earliest stages of life, through a child development, a baby is apart of all dancing and drumming that its mother experiences (Nzewi, 1996). The pre-birth artistic encounter gives the baby a glimpse into the world that they later join. Most importantly, artistic and physical activities enable the unborn child to develop physical strength that they later use to participate in their birth. 

This interaction with music and movement continues after the child is born. There is hardly any birth in a typical African setting that is not accompanied by dance. Once a child arrives (is born), they are surrounded by an ocean of music, dance, and rhythm.  Any given day in a baby’s life is spent, for the most part, tied to its mother’s [or any person’s] back by a piece of cloth (Nzewi, 1996). Through lullabies and other songs, the child is encouraged "to learn standing, balancing, and walking" (Nzewi). Among the Baganda people of central Uganda, the song Ttengerere, sirikawo baby, …(name of the child) alitambula ddi, etc. are very common. In all the songs mentioned above, the caretaker sings and the child moves (translates music into movement). The same practice is common in other tribes.

In Africa, children will always create opportunities to play, socialize and develop their artistry.
What is important to note about this practice is that it teaches the child how to interact with the environment inside and around them, how to negotiate rhythm and space, how to interact with other human beings, and how to participate in not only consumption but also production of music and dance. It is at this stage that the child starts on their journey to explore the environment around them. Some songs and dances that children are exposed to relate to work, family history, ethics and morality, compassion, spirituality, endurance, among others.

From this point on, a child is challenged to explore more artistically, socially, physically, and culturally enriching experiences. Because typical African families are extended, the child ventures out through children games, songs and dance to interact with family relatives, and, later, community peers. This encounter demands creative input from a child. The simplicity of this experience depends on how, together, children negotiate their diverse artistic interests, competences, complexities, and orientations.  The creative processes are based on active participation that is required of every member. Creative performances punctuate the activities such as fetching water and firewood, tending to gardens, harvesting, etc., which children are expected to do. Children always enjoy the freedom to create together without interference from adults. The African understanding is that "Freedom is not about being isolated and alone. It is about knowing who you are and understanding the way that you fit in with those around you. It is about trusting those near to you to be a part of you" (Nzewi, 1996).

Children performing dance in South Africa. Patterns like this are common in sub-urban and rural areas in Africa
Through music and dance, a child discovers and forms his/her identity in relation to the communal identity of other people, for “identity is a "negotiated experience" in the sense that it is largely defined by the ways in which the self is experienced while participating in a community of practice and by the ways the self is presented in those communities (Wenger, 1998). Therefore, for an African child “identity is grounded in "community membership. It is relational, and children define themselves relative to others in the community of practice as well as relative to those who do not belong” (Danielewicz, 2001). Dance and music integrate the child into the family, community, clan and tribal culture and practices. It prepares the child for and facilitates their understanding of the earthly, divine and ancestral worlds and universes.

The potency of dance and music in nurturing an African child lies in its ability to invite, encourage, and allow a child to actively participate in production, appreciation, sharing and consumption of artistic experiences. A child’s body acts as a candle from which the flames of music and dance artistry immortally glow. In return, dance and music act as a pillar that prevents a child mind, soul and body from stumbling.

Alfdaniels Mabingo is a Fulbright Fellow at New York University

Friday, December 27, 2013

Whose Anti-homosexuality bill?

On December 20, 2013, the parliament of Uganda passed the anti-homosexuality bill that had been on the floor of parliament since 2009. The bill will become law if the president of Uganda, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, assents his signature to it. This private member bill, among other things, provides for a sentence of life imprisonment for anyone convicted of homosexuality, which covers gays and lesbians. This article explores the politics of the bill other than its morality, il/legitimacy, ethics and legality.

Since the bill was passed, there has been extensive debate about its moral, ethical and legal standing. On the one hand, human rights activists across the world have condemned the bill saying that if it is passed into law, its implementation and enforcement will amount to blatant abuse of human rights.  On the other hand, proponents of the bill and a wide section of Ugandans have applauded the passing of the bill, and reiterated its necessity and importance in upholding and fostering cultural and religious values.

Resistance against homosexuality in Uganda and other parts of Africa is part of European religious colonial legacy and a result of deeply entrenched cultural and traditional beliefs and practices. In a bid to spread Victorian morality in Africa, European missionaries through religious movements, teachings and crusades preached against homosexuality and sodomy. This formed the foundation on which the currents faiths were built. Uganda's population is highly catholic (33%), Anglican (33%) and Muslim (16%), and most followers of these religious faiths still view homosexuality as a practice that is against their religious values, norms, procedures and biblical teachings. As a matter of fact, ever since the bill was passed, the archbishops of both the catholic and Anglican churches in Uganda have come out to condemn acts of homosexuality, and have called for redemption and of homosexual individuals in society.

This lack of acceptance of the gay community is compounded by very conservative cultural beliefs that are rooted in the philosophy of continuity of life.  Uganda’s tribal communities are founded on clan system, genealogical lineage, and ancestral history. The three form the tenets on which social and cultural identity is built and sustained. The sense of being is not only derived from individual existence but also through procreation, having a wife or wives and a husband or husbands, and getting subjected to cultural rituals such as rites of passage. Patrilineage, which is common in most African societies has roots in procreation and vice versa. An African clan or tribe cannot imagine that their son or daughter can live ad grow up with having biological children. Reproduction ensures this continuity of life and orientation into earthly and ancestral life and worlds. Any practice that threatens this belief is vehemently resisted, fought, and discredited.

Whose anti-homosexuality bill?

Debate about anti-homosexuality bill has focused on the ethics, morality, legitimacy, and legality of the bill. Yet, the bill seems to be serving political interests than the purpose for which it is purportedly drafted (to preserve the cultural and religious values of the people). Because the bill appeals to the cultural and religious sentiments of majority of Ugandans, politicians and legislators are using it to mobilize political support among Ugandans as we move towards the 2016 general elections. Ever since the bill was passed by parliament, a largest percentage of Ugandans have come out to show their full contentment with the bill on social and electronic media. The approval rate for legislators has drastically increased.

The government of Uganda is also using the bill to divert attention away from continued abuse of human rights, collapse in rule of law, and violent political harassment of members of opposition that Uganda has witnessed in the recent past. The international media and Western government seem to be obsessed with the bill each time it is debated in parliament and have not given other pressing human right abuses the attention that they deserve. this serves the current Kampala regime well. With this bill in their hands, the government of Uganda has added another weapon to their arsenal (in addition to having military troops in Somalia) to keep Western government, media, and organisations in check.

Is homosexuality a western imposed practice?

There is a popular belief among sections of Uganda's population that homosexuality is a foreign practice imposed on local communities to serve the ulterior motives the West (Europe and north America). This is contrary to the reports that homosexuality existed in pre-colonial African society. In fact, while appearing on BBC and CNN in 2012, the president of Uganda, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, acknowledged that homosexuality has always existed in Africa, but people never had debates about it in public (he calls this exhibitionism).  The more Western governments and human rights organisations directly intervene to ensure that the rights of sexual minorities are observed, the more the belief that homosexuality is a Western imposition gets entrenched within the local community. LGBT activists whose local campaigns are funded by western organizations also vindicate this suspicion. The west has also turned  blind eye on other forms of human rights  abuse in Uganda. Hesitancy by Western government and human rights organization to come out and strongly condemn other forms of human rights abuse is seen as betrayal, playing double standards and being insensitive to the plight of other many Ugandans who suffer grave injustices, abuses and violence. As one of the Ugandans commented in one of the debates about the bill: “The proponents of gay rights are as wrong as the proponents of anti gay law, when political opponents are killed and persecuted, those bazungus [people from the West] are silent. Are gay rights more important than other human right?” 

Uganda's armed forces breaking up a meeting of unarmed protestors. Such abuses are rarely condemned by Western governments and human rights organisations.

Western governments and organizations making mistakes

Ever since the bill was tabled before parliament, western governments and organizations have been calling for cuts in foreign aid to Uganda with aim to mount pressure on the Ugandan government and parliament to shelve the bill. By tying human rights to aid money and handouts, the West is making three mistakes and disservices to the gay community in Uganda and beyond: 1) the West is creating an impression that human rights can be bought or negotiated using financial and logistical resources and handouts. Human rights are human rights. Using money and other resources to gain them is setting a wrong precedent that if these rights can be commoditized and negotiated using money they can be taken away; 2) they are putting the gay community at risk in cases where countries may decide to do away with aid, mobilize local resources and continue to enforce and implement laws against sexual minorities; 3) the West is confirming the longstanding suspicion that homosexuality is a Western idea that is being imposed on local communities using threats to cut aid, and financial and logistical facilitation of gay right movements and campaigns.

The proponents of the anti-homosexuality bill are making the Ugandan society more homophobic. Those who are challenging the bill (both locally and internationally) are radicalizing local homophobia. Advocacy, publicity and activism for and against homosexuality will only leave the gay community in a more precarious position. Local politicians will continue to front this bill to cover up for their legislative and political failures as we move towards 2016 general elections. The anti-homosexuality has a lot to do with local politics than the moral, ethical and legal status of the people of Uganda. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Justine Sacco is not alone.

On December 20, 2013, Justine Sacco, the now-former director of communications at IAC made a tweet on her way to South Africa: “Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” The tweet immediately went viral, causing storm and strong condemnation on social, electronic and in print media. Sacco has since apologized for her reckless ‘joke’. In her statement, she regrettedFor being insensitive to this crisis — which does not discriminate by race, gender or sexual orientation, but which terrifies us all uniformly — and to the millions of people living with the virus.” Sacco’s predicament is testimony that maybe the African gods, spirits and ancestors have said "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH".

Sacco’s insensitive tweet represents the longstanding Western characterization that Africa has endured since it first made contact with the Western world. Since pre-colonial period, Africa has had disdainful labels such as dark continent, primitive society, third world, least developed society, and, currently, high risk region, all coined by elements in the West. This western condescending attitude is represented, for example, in Hugh Trevor-Roper’s 1963 remark that “perhaps in the future there will be some African history… But, at present, there is none; there is only the history of Europeans in Africa. The rest is darkness…and darkness is not a subject of history.” In 1969, Henry Kissinger, the former U.S. secretary of state, amplified Trevor-Ruper’s statement when he posited thus: “Nothing important can come from the South. The axis of history starts in Moscow, goes to Bonn, crosses over to Washington, and then goes to Tokyo. What happens in the South is of no importance.” Even after making such a statement, Kissinger went ahead and won a joint Noble Peace Prize together with Le Duc Tho in 1973.

Sacco’s statement is reflective of the stereotypes that the West has fabricated about Africa. These stereotypical images of Africa are derived from movies such as lion king, and biased and superficially selective media coverage.  For example, for some people in the West, watching The Last King of Scotland, Kony 2012, and War Dance is knowing everything about Uganda. Yet, Uganda does not live in the past. Idi Amin, whom the movie Last King of Scotland is based on was deposed from power in 1979 (before many of us were born). The war in Northern Uganda, which War dance reflects ended in 2005. However, construction of realities about Uganda based on these historical experiences has continued even when conditions have considerably changed.

In some instances, the people who visit Africa only get obsessed with what they perceive as negative/bad experiences to feed their stereotypical sentiments about Africa. To convince their stereotypical friends and family members back home that they have been to “Africa” (they mostly say Africa instead of particular countries in Africa that they have visited), they take photo of bad roads, makeshift houses, homeless people, malnourished children, etc. In their world of imagination, a better Africa does not exist.
Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. An image like this is rarely captured by Western visitors who come to Africa.
This attitude has a lot to do with class struggle than racism. It is about hegemony and supremacy, both fueled by national origin more than race. It is a dangerous form of patriotism where national pride is built around the attitude of looking down upon other societies. I have met none-white people whose perception of Africa is extremely negative and patronizing. The interaction between Africa and the West, in most part, is infested with Africans being treated as kids and listening signposts that need to be lectured to. Before the 2012 elections in Kenya, Johnnie Carson, the former U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs lectured to Kenyans that “choices have consequences”. This is one of the very many cases where the West is presented as noble while Africans are perceived as savages that do not have and cannot find means to mobilize themselves and tackle challenges that affect them. 

For the West to retain relevancy and control over Africa, they have to continuously pander to and present the fabricated images of a helpless/needy, begging Africa. This is clearly reflected in the “Machine Gun Preacher (2011), a fiction film based on the LRA. In the film, a retired alcoholic and drug-using biker from Minnesota comes to Northern Uganda and South Sudan upon converting to Christianity. He finds the children under constant attack from the LRA and becomes the hero who leads armed raids to rescue them.” (Mwenda, 2012). The impression created in this film is that a Western retired alcoholic and drug-using biker is much more effective and efficient than trained members of any African military force.

As Steve Biko once noted, “One of the most difficult things to do these days is to talk with authority on anything to do with African culture [politics, economics, social issues]. Somehow Africans are not expected to have any deep understanding of their own culture or even of themselves. Other people have become authorities on all aspects of African life ... There is so much confusion sown, not only among casual non-African readers, but even among Africans themselves, that perhaps a sincere attempt should be made at emphasizing the authentic cultural aspects of the African people by Africans themselves.” This common consciousness that is cultivated in the West is getting deeply entrenched in Africa that for every problem on our (African) continent, a solution must be sought from the West (Mwenda, 2012).

Some continental Africans are squarely culpable for lending credence to this Western characterization of Africa. Executives, economists, artists, politicians, religious leaders, social workers, policy makers, researchers etc crisscross European and North American cities and boardrooms to market trauma, hunger, wars, malnourishment, AIDS, in exchange for handouts. The elites that stay home preoccupy themselves with founding non-governmental organisations and writing project proposals to attract donations from the West. The level of  dependency and “donorism” (as president Museveni calls it) has reached an alarming, self-defeatist, and appalling stage. Moreover, this money rarely reaches its proposed recipients.

Justine Sacco’s words are spoken everyday, by so many people, in so many different ways/versions. This is what we (African immigrants) are bombarded with in our day-to-day interaction with people in West and the Western media. It is time for Africans and non-Africans to come out and challenge this Western characterization that is symptomatic of deeply seated hegemony, "orientalism" (Said 1978), “alterity” (Mudimbe, 2013), and “orientalization and otherization of Africa” (Mazrui, 2005).  The African gods, spirits and ancestors are singing  "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!" Let's all respond in chorus!

Alfdaniels Mabingo is a Fulbright Fellow at New York University