Keeping mother’s legacy alive
Marsha Walusimbi and Mary Angela Atwijukire
The two sisters lost their mother Sara Katebalirwe last year after she succumbed to lung cancer. At the time of her death, she was operating a bark cloth business making products such as handbags, clutches, and shoulder purses, among other products. After her death, the two sisters decided to continue running the business.
Atwijukire balances the business with school. She is a student at Uganda Martyrs University, Nkozi, while her sister juggles it with her work as the Head of Human Resource at the American Towers Corporation (ATC), Uganda. The sisters reflect upon what kind of mother she was in a special Mother’s day tribute.
Mary Angela Atwijukire
“Mummy was suffering from lung cancer. She had the cancer for some time but we got to find out late.
We had visited several doctors including one at the Mulago Cancer Institute who realised that the cancer had reached stage four. She said that the cancer was difficult to avert the cancer at that point but promised to do everything within her means to help her recover.
So, she started going for chemotherapy but then the cancer spread and ate up the whole of her left lung, leaving just one lung functional. Around the same time, she started having very bad headaches and when she went to do a brain scan, it was discovered that it had spread. She was put on radiation to help contain it.
At times you would see that she was improving and then on other days, her condition would get worse.
It then got to a point where she could no longer recognise people. She passed away on May 27, 2013.
Being friends and working with mummy
I was very close to mummy because I was used to staying with her and would also share almost every detail about my life with her. I will never forget the time I was going to campus and she advised me to get a boyfriend because it would be hard to find one after I left school and started work. We loved watching movies and going for parties together, especially those that she would be invited to.
She loved giving me chocolates on Valentine’s Day and in return, I would give her a frame that contained a flower every Mother’s Day. The best advice I got from her was that whenever I am facing any sort of personal crisis, I should laugh it off and that is what I normally do.
I never let problems wear me down by worrying or crying, instead I joke about them.
For a life lesson, she taught me to work hard and respect employees because you never know how they will help you out in future. As much as it is not easy, I have learnt to face the reality that she is gone and to honour her, I decided to carry on with her Marie-Sar Agencies Limited business, which deals in making products out of barkcloth, as managing director.
Initially, we were running this business together when she was still alive and I learnt how to do a lot of things from her such as coordinating colour, sewing and costing. Her objective has always been to make it successful and that is what I intend to do.”
“I learnt so many things from my late mother. One of them was how to sew clothes from bark cloth, which was something she taught me to do during school holidays. The other thing she taught me was to work very hard.
For instance, when orders came in, she would even make me work throughout the night to finish them all in time. She hated seeing us sleep for long hours, beyond 7am, and always expected us to be engaged in something constructive.
I will always be grateful to her because she raised us alone after my father died during my primary seven holidays. She managed to take us to some of the very best schools in this country as well as gave us opportunities to travel to different places in the world.
One of the lessons I learnt from her was to be selfless where family is involved. Family was very important to her and she expected all of us to love and care for each other in return just like she did. She also taught me to always be honest and truthful in my dealings. She reasoned that it was a way of taking a burden off someone else’s chest.
It has been hard moving on after her death. Sometimes I break down and wish that she was here especially whenever I am going through a hard time. But I am learning how to deal with the pain of her death.”
Gospel artistes Baby Gloria and mother, Betty Nakibuuka Senyonjo
Gloria Mulungi Senyonjo aka Baby Gloria is no ordinary child. The grade eight Word of Life International pupil sings and composes her own songs, thanks to her mother, Betty Nakibuuka Senyonjo, who helped nurture her talent. “I realised Gloria could sing right from a tender age. She loved humming a lot and writing down all sorts of words on pieces of paper, which she would later on start singing,” Nakibuuka says.
An (gospel) artiste herself, she thought it fruitful to bring Baby Gloria along whenever she visited the studio. Baby Gloria came up with words for her first song Mummy, Mummy, which was recorded and the video shot later. Eventually, it was played on various radio and television stations.
“I recorded that song when I was about two years and eight months old, but then shot the video when I was three,” says Gloria, now 12.
Over the next years, she released other songs including Never forsake you, Onkozese and I have a friend called Jesus, a collaboration she did with her mother.
Parenting Baby Gloria
Her daughter might be a star, but Nakibuuka says she always ensures that the fame never gets to her head. “I have constantly reminded Gloria that despite her popularity, it is very important for her to remain humble and respectful,” she says.
Indeed, when I arrive at their family home on a Friday afternoon, she welcomes me with a big smile and greeting, before ushering me to the living room and offering me a drink.
She is articulate but calm throughout the interview, answering everything I ask, even about her mother’s disciplinary method. “Most of the time she counsels me. She used to whip me but then stopped. The last time was when I was in P.4 trying to play with the meter box,” she says.
She adds that they have a close relationship with the mother, but adds that at times her mother is a little too strict, denying her certain privileges that other children enjoy. “She dictates the kind of clothes I should wear, programmes to watch on television and functions to attend.
“At times, I find it unfair but at the end of the day, she knows what is best for me,” Baby Gloria says. Her mother interjects and says that it is what any other parent would do if they wanted their child to grow up in an appropriate manner.
What they love doing together
During their free time, they enjoy going out for shopping and composing songs. As much as the two are looking forward to doing more music in the future, they will also help out in nurturing seven-year-old Jolly Mirembe’s musical talent. Mirembe is Nakibuuka and her husband John Senyonjo’s other child.
one-on-one with Baby Gloria
Do you ever do anything special for your mother on Mother’s Day?
Yes, I normally write a letter thanking her for loving and caring for my sister and I.
How do you often show affection to your mother?
I love hugging and saying thank you whenever she does something good for me.
If you had Shs10,000 right now, what kind of present would you buy for your mother?
I would get for her a very nice cup.
What are some of the life lessons you have picked up from your mother?
To love and care for every person whether they are in my family or not.
Do you have any special Mother’s Day message for her?
I want to thank her for nurturing my musical career and for bringing me up to this stage.
Halima Namakula and her songstress daughters
Raising Rema Namakula
“I raised Rema Namakula as my very own daughter from the time she was very young. As a child, she was very quiet and shy. Inspite of her laid back personality, she loved humming and singing around the house. That was how I came to realise that she had a very powerful soothing voice fit for a musician. I decided to do something about it. I would let her sing back up during my album launches including that of ekimbewo and sambagala.
Eventually, I realised that it was time for her to do her own solo projects. I gave her a go ahead to work with local artiste Bebe Cool who mentored and collaborated with her. What I love most about Rema is that she is very free with me.
She was the one who, for instance, told me about her relationship with fellow artiste Eddy Kenzo who I think is a loving and caring man. During our free time, Rema and I love going for outings and just talking.
However, I do not like the fact that she tends to get very busy and forgetful about the most important things in life. Nevertheless, I love what she is doing and I am so proud that I gave her the required platform to venture out on her own as an artist.
Nurturing Rachel Kiwanuka aka Rachel K’s
“I gave birth to Rachel 27 years ago in USA. I stayed with her and her three older brothers until 2002 when I came to back to Uganda to do my album launches.
She joined me later after making 18. As a child, she loved singing, just like me. Rachel would always sing around the house and even at times encourage me to take her for various musical talent shows held in different parts of the States. With time, she gained confidence and started singing for larger crowds.
The only problem with her is that she is too laidback. She needs to be constantly pushed to do something. I’m the one always pushing her to do the music, for instance. What I loved most about her back then was that she was calm and smiled alot. It was hard to know when she was upset. She rarely confronts people.
Rachel and I have always been close. Just like Rema, she is open with me. For instance, she always asked me to escort her to concerts, which people interpreted as me caging her in. They did not know that we simply loved each other’s company. When she is done with her university degree in the United States in the next one year and a half, we are going to embark on a joint musical tour to perform in different places, probably starting off in Europe.”
“From day one, Mummy wanted me to be a musician but what I really wanted to be was a dancer. As I grew up, I realised that I was actually a better singer than dancer and all of my brothers would tell me that. They agreed with what mum was saying that I could actually sing better.
From that time then, I started singing with her as my manager. She would take me to recitals in California where I won three awards in various music categories. Each time, I saw my mother in the audience smiling at me that is when I knew I was singing well.
So, I would keep on singing. But then she told me I had to wait until I graduated from high school before I could record in the studio. Right after graduating from high school, I joined her in Uganda and started singing. The same thing she told me was what she told Rema, my younger sister that she had to finish high school first before she could record any song and that is what she did exactly.”