When it came clear that artistes were among those to be awarded with medals on National Heroes Day 2017, we all held our breath waiting to see who will be awarded. After the ceremony, below are some of the comments verbatim that come up without revealing the sources: “This is the plan, let’s go give out medals to the artists we know...”; Yr Excellence, what a hero is Kato Lubwama unless heroes has lost meaning; Heroes circus as M7 declares comedians Kato Lubwama, Kakyapizo heroes;
I’ve always been waiting for a day when the government would recognise artistes. Then it happened. Some friends of mine got medals, but it doesn’t take away the fact that it was a very big joke. Irrespective of who received the award and whether they deserved it or not, it is worth noting that at last, the government has recognised the role art and culture played in bringing the current government to power. Probably President Museveni would still be referred to as a guerrilla or perhaps he would have given up the struggle long time ago. I also want to congratulate Mr Kiyimba Musisi and other artistes upon receiving the prestigious award. You made us proud.
Indeed, this has been long overdue, but better late than never. Besides, art has been widely used in Uganda to bring about peace and reconciliation, create awareness about epidemics, and healing and transforming society, preach against social and political injustices, and therapy, among others. This shows that art in the society doesn’t only exist for entertainment although entertainment is also part of it. In most cases, art is an expression of something; it is the mirror of the society. It is provides a platform for people to voice and articulate issues.
Now that government has seen the significant role Art plays in society, it is now time to support this creative industry beyond giving medals.
In countries like China, Japan and India, of their biggest foreign exchange earner is art and culture sector. In Nigeria, the creative industry is second to oil in terms of revenue earnings projected at $51 million by end 2017, according to Ripples Nigeria. In USA, Hollywood is one of the biggest revenue generators for the country.
Uganda, endowed with talented creative artistes and more than 65 indigenous communities with unique characteristics, rich and diverse cultures, would be earning billions of dollars from these. Besides the huge financial potential to the government that the art and culture sector promises, it has the potential to generate jobs. All that is required is for the government to ensure that the creative industry is allocated a funds like other sectors.
I call upon the Legislature, the Judiciary and the Executive to prioritise the creative industry. It should also operationalise the Copyright law to enable the creators of the various works to benefit from their works. If the country is to attain middle income status by 2020, then art and culture should be used as a driving force for development.