Open Mic Uganda is a platform that promotes spoken word in Uganda. Their primary medium is poetry, which is done through shows staged monthly(that is, Open Mic Fusion 360), guest performances at events, events at primary and secondary schools, and also on the internet via facebook, twitter, their blog and now on The One Question Network(which will interview various poets and provide them with a platform to broadcast their poems). They work with poets individually through poetry societies and in schools. Their goal is to enhance poetry as a celebrated form of art and promote poets. They also showcase musicians in their shows.
What is ‘Open Mic Uganda’ and what is it geared towards?
Open Mic Uganda is a company that provides a platform for spoken word in Uganda. It’s major emphasis is on the spread and growth of poetry as a celebrated art genre. Our major goal is to effect the community by allowing people to express themselves and be changed through others’ expressions. It is also aimed at helping different people perfect the art of public speaking and thus give them a platform to exhibit their talent. It’s is a unique platform, open for all to be heard with values that respect our society norms.
Was it hard starting Open Mic? How many brains are behind it?
Yes, it was very easy to dream about, but assembling a team of people with the same dream and passion and starting it was the furthest things from simple! Many brains played a part and their inputs were useful, most of the members on the current team and a few others. However, the initial dream was started by Mark Gordon Musinguzi who had a dream to have it on television with stages showd which started out as Open Mic Night Kampala. It was then changed later to Open Mic Uganda with a similar group of individuals with a different goal, although poetry as a medium has been maintained from the start. Like all beginnings of new ventures, it was challenging. But surely only through fire does gold gets purified.
What milestones have you achieved?
We are currently self – sustaining. We have increased our outreach on social media. For example we have over 10,000 people in our facebook group, and we also have an active blog and an active facebook page, and close to 500 followers on Twitter.
We have partnered with other brands and companies in our activities such as Milege, the Lantern Meet of Poets, Luminous Sorrels, Bimbo Ice Cream Parlour, the Uganda Museum, Take One Entertainment, The Twist (IHSU).
We have spread our influence in different schools such as Greenhill Academy and Gayaza High School.
We have been able to sustain a consistent spoken word event every month at the National Museum with an audience of about 100 people.
We have established a powerful fan base and our visibility has grown massively since we begun.
How does one become a member of Open Mic Uganda? What does it take?
Well, being a part of Open Mic Uganda could be in different ways. There is the core team of organisers who volunteer to contribute their passion, effort, time, ideas, skills and other resources to be a part of the dream to the growth and spread of spoken word in Uganda. There are also the poets who are always welcome to perform at our events simply by getting in touch with the team, or being active on our social media. There are the poetry societies who we interact with frequently at various poetry activities around Kampala. There are our fans who show up at our monthly event, Open Mic Fusion 360 every first Tuesday of the month at the Uganda Museum, and others who are active on our social media fora. And there are our partners who contribute to the dream in their own way as we do to theirs. But key to all of this is passion for the art, ability to interact with different people to confidently speak about Open Mic Uganda and a spirit of self drive to go over and beyond for the sake and love of the company and platform!
Do you think the populace here(Uganda) is able to understand the depth of poetry and thus appreciate it?
Currently, not many people understand the depth of poetry because not many are kin to accept the beauty of literature that is not the usual plain English. There is still a misconception about poetry being only of the Elizabethan times, most people actually still think that poetry can only be appreciated by people who have done literature in school. However,there is great potential in changing this. A good number of Ugandans are starting to appreciate it mainly in the sense of creativity. Like any new idea, it has to be packaged and presented in a way that will encourage people to pause and listen!
We think it’s just a matter of time; the more exposed people are the more they embrace poetry. Plus we have poetry in different languages presented in different forms; therefore Ugandans are able to understand the depth of poetry as long as they are exposed to it and its perks which will help them appreciate it.
How true is it that people who are involved in different fields of the arts have an IQ higher than the average person’s?
Well, we do not have any statistical proof to back that up! But on a supposed whim of what we see around us, it’s probably sixty percent. Arts require a higher level of creativity compared to skills set that are more likely supposed to be done by the book. When someone is involved in more than one art, they are challenged to broaden their experience and wealth of knowledge in many aspects which in turn plays a part in increasing one’s IQ.
When it comes to talent versus learned skill, which goes a longer way in defining what a person is capable of doing?
The thing about talent is that it grows with time, one cannot sit back and think their talent will always be there when it is not nurtured. Both must be married to define what a person is capable of doing, you could have talent and pick more skills around your talent to stand out. The truth of the matter is that as much as skill can stand on its own, talent needs practice, which in turn leads to acquisition of skill. In that regard talent is best when nurtured and grown.
Do you think the education system in Uganda has done enough to groom talent, as compared to its emphasis on ‘science subjects’?
No it has not. The education system has failed short in a way and seriously needs revamping! It is centered around academics and has left a big gap in the development of the talents of the youth. It grooms the youth to focus on skill and does little to encourage talent. Because it looks down upon the dependence of talent to make a living, this has been a major cause of the unemployment problem.
Although it has failed to torch a light on grooming passion, it would be unfair to solely judge the education system because even if it did groom talent, the general view of the older generations, including our parents, are not supportive of talent above academics.
Can someone take the thing they love to do just for the fun of it and use it to make a living?
Yes they can. It is the balance of the passion one has for what they are doing and having fun that makes it more worth while! It’s the reason why Bill Gates, Tiger Woods, Will Smith, Lionel Messi and others are wealthy and feel fulfilled satisfactorily with their careers! They took what they loved and earned a living out of it! When a person pursues a profession in line with his passion, he is most likely to achieve his goals because it’s not just his head involved but his heart too. However, the environment factors play a major role too. It makes it even more possible if the market conditions favor what it is one does.
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