Friday, 9 December 2011

Boda through Kireka

One of my favourite pastimes in Kampala.

A boda boda is essentially a motobike, a form of transport, supposedly quick and easy. I hear it got it's name in the 60's because there was a need to cross "no mans land" between the border of Uganda and Kenya without the paperwork necessary when travelling by car, so the boda boda men would to offer rides across the border to Kenya. To attract customers they would shout "border border" which sounded like "boda boda" hence the name. Who knows if that's true.


 Yes, I do have to do the obligatory tourist pose. 

Despite having seen countless crashes, scrapes with cars, huge bruises, broken bones, and even a dead person. I can't help but jump onto a boda boda. 

They are very cheap (just DON'T take your first price, ask a local the rates to go around town) and pretty fast for dodging traffic, although I must admit; I've scraped my knees on a few vehicles thanks to over enthusiastic boda boda drivers trying to squeeze through non existent gaps. 

Looking unashamedly like a tourist (actually, trying to pretend I was texing) I filmed these roads in Kireka on my way to the Women of Kireka workshop, just so you lovely followers can get a feel for what it's like, yes, its a very bumpy ride, Enjoy.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

The Women Behind The Beads - Women of Kireka.

Back in 2007 I found myself in the middle of Kireka, being hassled by men and being called "Mzungu" (white person) five thousand times a day by little kids with barely any clothes to wear. There were no roads or lights and I, with my Western senses consequently fell down several holes each night.

Kireka ia a small town on the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda. Some call it a slum, some refer to it as an internal refugee camp.
However  I knew none of this until this year. 

On my journey back to Uganda (for the 4th time) to collect more jewellery and make more links with local jewellery producing projects, I found out that Kireka was home to exactly what I was looking for, I was back to where I started again. 

Kireka is reffered to as an internal displacement/refugee camp as during the war in Northern Uganda, survivors and refugees fled to Kampala to escape the danger and to start a new life.

And thats just what the Women of Kireka did, escaping the violence and bloodsheed of the North, they began a new life in Kireka earning a minimal wage smashing rocks on the nearby rock quarry. 


Work on the quarry is tiresome and dangerous (see above video), I asked my guide, Bridget if the workers ever fell down the quarry and she told me they frequently did, many have died and many have also lost fingers whilst crushing the rocks. I tried, but couldn't even begin to imagine a life where I had to flee disaster, leaving everything behind to be greeted with the promise of smashing rocks daily for the foreseeable future, knowing that my life and my children's lived depended on it, but were also at risk from it. The hope that the women have is shocking but inspirational. I wondered if their joy and ease in talking about their lives and the quarry was a front because they knew I was a visitor, I don't even have the capability to imagine such hope and strength. 


The Women of Kireka project was set up, to enable the women to earn an income so they don't have to spend so many back breaking hours on a dangerous quarry. They create wonderful beads from recycled paper, so not only are they able to earn money to feed their children, but these beads are great for the environment, ensuring that newspapers and magazines are put to great use, they are now fabulous wearable pieces rather than piling up on the rubbish dumps! 

Here are some photos from the WoK workshop and a video of Bridget explaining how the paper beads are created. Please ask for permission before using photos.


The women
The women at the project all have different stories, most enough to break your heart, yet they have so much joy and happiness you wonder how it's possible. Although the project has greatly improved their lives, they still cannot yet afford to leave work at the quarry. The women, just like all of us, still hold on to their personal ambitions, many of them wanting to gain skills like tailoring to make a better living, the WoK project is working slowly towards expanding into these areas to give the women a better future. 

Some of the women I met and a little bit about them

          Achiro Elder

Elder fled to Kampala from Northern Uganda in 2000. She works with her husband on the stone quarry to support her three children. She hopes to find a new livelihood soon as she finds the work at the quarry physically demanding. She would love to be trained in tailoring, something she believes she could excel in, and dreams of opening a bakery.

                                                Akech Santa

Santa fled to Kampala from Northern Uganda in 1994. As she suffers crippling back pains, she hopes to stop working on the quarry and continue assisting the expansion of Women of Kireka

                                                       Abonyo Sarah

Fleeing the Lord's Resistance Army in Northern Uganda, Sarah and her family came to Kampala. She works with her husband on the Kireka quarry. She hopes Women of Kireka will eventually help her open her own tailoring business where the work will be less strenuous than on the Kireka quarry.

                                            Achen Jasinta

Jasinta moved to the quarry in 1998 to provide for her 10 children and her husband, who is mentally impaired. She desperately needs another source of income to make ends meet and hopes Women of Kireka will help her develop new business skills.

The beads

These are some of the beads that the WoK have produced, they are all for sale at Amaziah Jewellery, please check for more sale items.

I also have a large amount of lose beads which I will be turning into items like this:

If you have any requests for items you would like made, or would like to buy some loose beads to create your own jewellery, please comment or email

Remember, every purchase helps to better the lives of these wonderful women!

Amaziah Jewellery is non profit!


Sunday, 27 November 2011

So its been a while

So its been a very long while since I've updated the blog, so what happened?

Well a lot happened in Ghana and Uganda over Summer, I didn't have the time or internet connection to update.

Then as soon as I got back I started a PGCE (teacher training) and have had no time or money since. However Ive now decided that a little effort is better than none and I WILL be updating everything that happened over Summer, and lots of new things too.

For now I shall leave you some 'Behind the scenes' snaps from the Tribal shoot last weekend. 

Photographer: Nadine Ijewere
MUA and model : Grace Gray
Stylists & Models: Ib Kamara & Cee Cee
Model: Sheena
Jewellery: Amaziah Jewellery
Clothing: Ayika Couture and stylists own

 Say Cheese!

Grace working the first look, wearing stylists own dress, Moroccan earrings, Paper beads from Uganda & Ghanaian terracotta beads

Sheena, the unknowing model!

 Tidy workstation

 African Prince. Weather was COLD. Luckily Cee Cee had brought a fur coat along

 Nadine shooting in the freezing cold

Grace making Cee Cee up

Tuesday, 21 June 2011




Sponsorship Form
A)   Intro
The Walk
B)   The Cause
C)   What’s in it for you

On behalf of my project Amaziah Jewellery, which sells ethical jewellery,  I will be travelling to Uganda this August to both purchase fair trade jewellery from craftspeople and to visit and feature community projects.

I will be documenting my travels and filming/interviewing several community projects, of these projects, I have chosen 3 I would like to raise money for.


I will be doing a sponsored 35 mile “district line” walk from Hornchurch -à Ealing Broadway.
This walk will be taking place in the 3 days between coming back from Ghana and going to Uganda, the 14th 15th or 16th August. I will be walking with a pedometer and filming a message at each station as proof I am there, I will be tweeting my whereabouts so feel free to walk along with me to make sure!

                                 More about the projects
The money I raise will be split between the following 3 projects, the amount of help/investment I can give depends entirely on donations.  Keep reading because there is something init for you too!

1)    Watoto Babies Home – I have worked with Watoto for about 3 months at the Kampala babies home. The home takes in abandoned, sick and dying babies, and provides them with a home, medical attention, a family and a future. The children are looked after and loved until they graduate from college. The money raised will either go towards clothing, or if there is enough raised, to buy equipment from the needs list, to view the needs list please visit the official website Footage and proof of donation will be recorded.

2)    Women of Kireka – The Women of Kireka project will be one of the projects I will be purchasing jewellery from. All internally displaced peoples, the women fled the war torn north and were sent to work breaking rocks in a nearby quarry. The project has saved many lives including those of the women’s young children and babies.  I will be using the money raised to provide English learning materials in order for the women to expand and take control of their beading business.

3)    Breakdance Uganda  supports young boys and rescued child soldiers from Northern Uganda, giving them a creative outlet and enabling them to make a living from dance shows. A friend of mine also teaches the boys art and how to make money from arts and crafts. The money raised will go towards craft materials for the boys and also English learning materials to enable the boys to create a better future for themselves.


                                                 Whats in it for me?

Apart from knowing you have done a great thing, I am offering some incentives to donate to these great projects.

·         All donators will be mentioned on my website and blog, and will be entered into a mystery prize draw.

·         Donations of over £5 will receive a 5% discount when Amaziah Jewellery is officially launched.
·         Donations of over 10% will receive a 10% discount
·         Donations of £15, £20, £30 £40 £50 will also receive corresponding discount vouchers. Terms will apply.

·         Donations of over £50 will receive free tickets to the exclusive launch event  (date to be confirmed) as well as discount vouchers and mentions on the travel documentaries.

·         Donations of over £75 will receive all of the above plus a free goody bag and advertising at the launch event / website.

·         Donations above this amount can contact me for other benefits.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, Sponsor me, doing this walk jetlagged won’t be fun for me but many lives can be saved by small contributions! Even £1 or £2 would be great, please help us to make a huge difference.

All donations will be added to the sponsor page and blog so please keep updated.

Proof of handing over the materials will also be documented for the website.

Many thanks in advance from everyone!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Some KLA Summer Faves

These are some of my favourite Summer songs (and before you make comments) yes I know these are old but they are reminders of the amazing time I had in Kampala in 2007/2008

Bobi Wine - Kiwaani
I can't not love this tune, despite only understanding one word (kiwanni - fake) it was played EVERYWHERE, and yeah, I just love it and have to dance to it every time I hear it.

This song is great, I think Ngoni is Tanzanian? My Lebanese friend who lives in Kampala would not stop singing this, he said it was about girls with big butts but I don't know, all I know is its a nice Summer song which makes me smile.

Now anyone who knows me knows I LOVEEEE P square, 2 Nigerian guys -  this is not my fav song of theirs but it definately reminds me of KLA since it was played non stop, this was actually the first time I heard of p square, it came on alllll the time in the clubs, and we could actually (kind of) sing along to it too. Love love love.

Love is wicked - Brick and Lace

I know, this is not Ugandan either, but any time of day or night you could hear this song coming from somewhere, a real Summer banger and I sang with with my friend everyday for the next few months after getting back home. I actually still play it quite a lot now, but I must admit I do sometimes get a bit sick of it.. Good times

Akon - Sweetest Girl

This is not really a Summer song and its a bit depressing really but it was still played in all the KLA clubs so I didn't actually take notice of the words, possibly because I had a few too many alcoholic beverages, but I love this track either way.

Zuena - Weasle & Radio
Possibly one of my fave tunes EVER. No matter how many times I play this I CANNOT get bored of it, it's impossible. I love radio & weasle's music but this is my total fave. They are nice guys too, I met them a couple of times in Silk club, Weasle asked me out to a lunch date but I was like "cough cough" I know who your girlfriend is haha (I didn't go by the way)

Mad Melon & Mountain Black - Kpolongo
Ok first 2 questions ; I know these guys are Nigerian, so can anyone tell me what Kpolongo means? Also I have searched high and low for the faster version of this song and cant find it :( where can I get it?
Ok so this song is a great memory for me because it was played loads, the Ugandans call it "gologo" and a faster track was always played in the clubs. My fav memory of this song is 2 of my friends (Kharl & Kamara) doing a funny (or maybe it was serious) dance to this song at Rugby club, which is always a great place to be..

Stipperman - Wansulo

This song isn't old, but stipper is a good friend of mine and I do actually love this song loads, he did make a proper video but hasn't uploaded it to youtube yet.

Navio & Peter Miles - Rukus

Navio is definately East Africa's best rapper, if not all of Africa, this song doesn't show his true talent so check him out he's awesome. I met Navio in 2008 when I arrived in Uganda, he donated my friend (who we were staying with)  a matress for us to sleep on, which I don't think he ever got back. Navio is an awesome guy, lots of fun we hung out quite a bit and he was even willing to watch sex in he city with us haha, luckily the cinema broke so he had a lucky escape, but in all seriousness, since I've been away the past 3 years, Navio and his crew Klear Kut have had HUGE success and have toured worldwide.

Daville - Always on my Mind

Adoreee this song, it's so sweet and lovelyyy. I first heard this in 2007 when I was staying in Kireka, one of the few moments the TV (electricity) was on

Grace Nakimera - Anfuukula
I'm not sure if I ever liked this song, but it definately reminds me of my times in KLA, it was played eveywhere, I guess I did like it in a strange way. One of my very very good friends is her manager and they have been touring across the world so yay, go Grace!

Beera Nange - Toniks

Ok last one, just like this.

Im sure I've missed some, infact I know I have, sorry people that I have missed, if I remember any more I shall add them :D


Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Stranger than fiction, "possessed" school in Uganda...

You know the phrase  "The truth is stranger than fiction"? Thats exactly what this is, If this story hadn't been so widely reported in Uganda news I would not have believed it myself. Its a long story but read on, let us know what you think....
 This story has been taken from the Sunday Vsion newspaper in Uganda
 * sh = Ugandan shillings, approx 3000 - £1
* Mayembe = demon spirit

“My daughter barks like a dog, and she cannot sleep. She tells me (that) she gets nightmares in which a man and a woman are asking for human blood and telling her to leave their school" 

KITEBI Primary School in Rubaga division has lately been the scene of mysterious happenings. Is this a demonic attack or just mass hysteria? Elizabeth Namazzi and Carol Kasujja investigate

THE young mother is desperate. She has been in this state since her only child, Nanyonjo Najjiwa started barking like a dog. Her voice dripping with emotion, she describes how her daughter, a P6 pupil at Kitebi Primary School, has been unable to sleep since a bizarre incident happened at her school. “My daughter barks like a dog,” she says, “and she cannot sleep. She tells me (that) she gets nightmares in which a man and a woman are asking for human blood and telling her to leave their school. Yesterday she woke up crying that an old woman was walking with her while beating her.”

She explains that the little girl does not want to eat although, surprisingly, she is very powerful. To Fatuma Najjuko and other parents with children at that primary school, this strange thing can attributed to nothing other than demons. Located in Rubaga division, Kitebi Kindergarten and Primary School started recording cases like Nanyonjo’s three years ago. But according the school’s matron, Edith Namusisi, this year’s attack has been the worst case.


Bizarre attacks
It all began in February, shortly after the term opened for the new school year. According to Sarah Namutebi, the school’s deputy headmistress, she was in her office when she heard that one of the P7 girls had been attacked by evil spirits. “She was shaking and shouting, claiming one of our teachers, Naomi Wandera, had concealed charms somewhere on the compound. She attracted other pupils’ attention and many of them became hysterical.”

One by one, pupils started acting peculiarly and speaking in strange voices. They would fall down while shaking violently and crying. Many could not eat or talk. Having witnessed this weird and frightening behaviour before, the school authorities and unaffected pupils had a good idea of what was happening. Another demonic attack had just been unleashed on them.

At the climax of the bizarre attacks early this month, 30 pupils had been affected by the evil spirits.

One of the parents, Hajara Ssenyonga, laments that her son, Abraham Ssali was one of the affected pupils. “My child was attacked by evil spirits,” she narrates, “and he could not recognise me when I picked him from school. He was calling for someone called Naomi Wandera to come and give him blood,” she says.

Najjiwa narrates that “I feel weak when I am about to get possessed. I get a headache and lose my sight. I feel like someone is holding my neck so as to stop me from talking. I can’t to sleep at night and prefer to be left alone. I never wanted to be with my family members.”

Henry Ssensuwa, another pupil, also says that he was attacked when he attempted to help some demon-possessed girls.

To check the rate at which the students were being attacked, the school was closed for one week and a Parents Teachers Association (PTA) meeting was convened to discuss the incident.

“It is Teacher Naomi who sent the demons. She was once our headmaster’s wife but the headmaster threw her out for another teacher"

Mass hysteria?
 A few, however, think that there are no evil spirits in the school. These believe that what is happening is either a case of mass hysteria or anxiety. One parent, who preferred anonymity, revealed that he had taken her daughter to Mulago hospital for a medical check-up. “I was called to pick my daughter. Teachers told me she was violent and her eyes were closed. I took her to Mulago where doctors told me she had hysteria and gave her medication. She has never disturbed us again,” the parent testified.

A medical doctor, Mawejje Bakojja, confirms the diagnosis of doctors at Mulago hospital. “It is mass hysteria and anxiety,” Bakojja affirms, “so those pupils just need counselling. Parents should give their children time to rest. Give them lots of drinks and food to eat so they get some energy,” he advises.

The mass hysteria theory suggests that when one person is affected by hysteria, the people around that person have a high chance of being affected the hysteria. According to the internet encyclopedia, Wikipedia, mass hysteria is also referred to as a “collective obsessional behaviour,” which it defines as “the manifestation of the same or similar hysterical symptoms by more than one person”.

One of the common manifestation of mass hysteria is, according to Wikipedia “when a group of people believe they are suffering from a similar disease or ailment”. This, according to medical doctors like Bakojja, might be the case with the pupils of Kitebi.

Superstitious people
Ugandans are generally a superstitious lot and the parents, teachers and pupils of Kitebi are no different. Most are convinced the pupils were attacked by evil spirits locally referred to as mayembe. As Ssenyonga says, his son’s request for blood is a sure sign that “those are demons”. Whenever talk of demonic or evil spirit attack is rife in an area, people rush to search for solutions from anyone or anything who they think can get rid of the evil spirits. The religious turn to God while the secular turn to traditional medicinemen/women or witchdoctors who they believe have the powers to get rid of the offending spirits.

Ssenyonga falls in the latter category. “I have to take my son to a witchdoctor for healing,” he says. The school’s headteacher, Godfrey Ssenfuma also falls in this category, for, as Hadija Nnalongo, a mother to Shakira Nakato, a P7 pupil, says, he undertook special measures to protect his students from the attacks. “My daughter told me that the headmaster slaughtered a cow last month and smeared its blood on every pupil’s ankles,” Nnalongo reveals.

She further narrates that parents collected sh4m to pay for the services of Mama Fina, a famous traditional medicinewoman from Katwe in Kampala. She’s also the head of traditional healers in Uganda and her fans believe she has special powers that can evict demons from the school.

Finger pointing
Even more interesting is the fact that some, including pupils, claim to know who sent the mayembe to the school. Most people Sunday Vision talked to are convinced that one of the teachers, Naomi Wandera, who also happens to be Ssenfuma’s ex-lover, sent the mayembe to spite him.

“It is Teacher Naomi who sent the mayembe. She was once our headmaster’s wife but the headmaster threw her out for another teacher. They attacked my friends and they started speaking in tongues,” swore Zakai Nabitaka, a P7 pupil who stayed at school when her parents delayed to pick her up. She believes the demons did not attack her because she had a rosary and had started fasting.

The pupil’s testimony is backed by one P6 teacher. “I believe that Naomi is behind those demons because she was once involved with the headmaster, but he left her for another teacher,” the teacher says.

To spite her replacement and win back the headmaster’s love, Naomi’s accusers insist, she sought the services of a witchdoctor. “When this failed, she decided to plant charms in the school so that the headmaster leaves the school,” the P6 teacher claims.

Seeking solutions
The lack of consensus over the cause of the attacks not withstanding, different authorities are trying to devise ways of dealing with them. Religious leaders, convinced that this is the devil at work, are asking God to intervene and fight the demons on their behalf. Some teachers have taken to a seven-day fast in the hope that God will answer their prayers and heal the pupils. “These are invisible powers. The experience is bad because we are idle, but we are engaged in intensive praying and fasting,” said one teacher on condition of anonymity.

The parents on the other hand are asking the school authorities to get traditional medicinemen and women/doctors to deal with the mayembe so as to ensure that their children are safe from future attacks. One parent, Edith Babirye, even threatened to withdraw her child from the school if the authorities do not call witchdoctors to get rid of the mayembe.

Parents have particularly singled out Mama Fina, as their only hope. They did this, according to Nnalongo, because the school authorities refused to raised the required amount. “Mama Fina asked for sh4m to remove the spirits but the school authorities refused to give her that amount. As parents, we should bring our own witchdoctors,” she suggests.

No consensus
The school pastor, however, along with other Christians in the school, does not agree with the suggestion that witchdoctors be copnsulted. “It is true there is darkness in our school,” the pastor admits, “but we are not going to consult Mama Fina because darkness cannot light darkness. Such things were also recorded in the Bible and it is the power of God that can chase away demons, not witchcraft,” he preaches, though the his message is unwelcome to the parents, who advised him to save his preaching for his congregation.

Head teacher missing
 At the height of the saga, the headteacher had been away from the school for two weeks. When we talked to him, he revealed that he had been hospitalised at Mulago hospital, where he was receiving treatment for diabetes. But the parents, ignorant of this, started spreading rumours that he was hiding from them. They directed the acting headteacher, Sarah Namutebi, to disclose his whereabouts. He is still on bedrest at his home in Kyengera.
School re-opens
It is amidst all this drama that the school eventually reopened on April 4 after being closed for a week. The opening day was uneventful in the sense that no pupil was attacked by evil spirits. But this was not to last, for the spirits broke loose the next day when Sunday Vision visited the school. WBS’ Drake Sekkeba, who was at the school at the same time we visited it, sat six P7 pupils under the mango tree where the mayembe are said to have been ‘planted’.

Evil spirits re-attack As he was talking to them, one of the girls, Betty Natume, got possessed and started shouting Wandera’s name. She also asked for human blood and food.

Throwing herself on the ground and rolling around with amazing energy, her eyes were wide open as she asked for Wandera at the top of her voice. Teachers tried to calm her with promises of posho and beans since it was coimg to lunch time. She rejected their offer because, she said, ‘spirits do not eat such things’.

“We feed on blood,” she said hysterically as fellow students gathered around and started asking her questions. “Where did she plant the demons?” asked one pupil. But before she could answer, other pupils started getting possessed, interrupting ongoing lessons in the nearby classrooms. Chaos reigned in the school as the possessed pupils began shouting. Other pupils were running up and down, while others stood on benches their faces betraying curiosity.

At 1:00pm, parents came to collect the children from the kindergarten section. They, along with residents near the school, were attracted by the mayhem. The lone gateman at the school gate tried to cut off their access to the school but he was overwhelmed by the large crowd.

Pastors suddenly appeared and stretched their hands over the pupils and started praying for them in a bid to cast away the demons. One little girl was as stiff as a corpse as she lay on the ground. “You deaf and mute spirits, I command you to come out of her and never enter her again,” prayed a pastor.

The girl eventually woke up and started hitting her head against a tree. When she started urinating on herself, the crowd became angry and started stoning the pastors who they accused of being part of the problem.

“The more you pray, the more those demons will continue disturbing our children,” the parents chorused as they organised themselves to collect witchdoctors.


Witchdoctors intervene
By 2:00pm, three witchdoctors who claimed to have come from Tanzania, were already at the school. But before they could begin looking for the spirits, they asked for two red cocks, a basin and shs100,000 from the school. The parents raised some money from among themselves and bought two cocks at sh45,000 and a basin at sh2,500. One of the witchdoctors touched the girl’s head and she became peaceful. “Jjajja webale,” shouted one of the people in the crowd by way of giving thanks to the witchdoctors’ gods.

The witchdoctors cut off the cock’s head and started moving around the compound with one of the possessed girls. She took them to one of the big trees in the compound. Pouring blood around the tree, they got a hoe and started digging in search of the demons. One of the witchdoctors sprinkled blood as they dug. They eventually found a small plastic bottle with small soil-like particles inside it. Fear gripped the crowd nearest to the bottle. They started screaming as the witchdoctors displayed the contents of the bottle. They demanded for sh100,000 to continue with their work.

 “We even planted some medicine in those flowers,” said one of the possessed schoolgirls.

Another possessed girl came and led one of the witchdoctor’s by the hand to Wandera’s house, which is located within the school.

“I planted those demons with Mr. Mbazira,” she said as the crowd followed them. At Wandera’s door, the incensed crowd tried to break the window pane in a bid to gain access to the house. They threatened to throw away her belongings but the Police intervened and started dispersing the crowd by firing bullets in the sky. But their efforts were in vain, for the crowd was too busy praising witchdoctors and singing songs of praise to the ‘jjajjas’.

Promises of doom
The witchdoctors had one message for the headteacher and his staff: “If the headmaster and his teaching staff do not get serious, these demons are going to kill two pupils. Naomi is the one who planted these demons but right now she is in Tanzania at the waterfront,” said Sheikh Swaibu, a witchdoctor. He adds: “Naomi had an affair with the headmaster so she wants to also get a big position in the school so that she is respected.”

“You should give us sh100,000. Otherwise, blood is going to be spilled. The headmaster knows it but he is just pretending,” warned another witchdoctor. Are these witchdoctors telling the truth or are they another bunch of fake witchdoctors out to mint money from superstitious Ugandans?