Hannington Bugingo looks at me with a lazy eye as he calmly adjusts his cap.
“This is part of me. I have grown so used to it [cap]. Sometimes, I find it hard to move around without it,” he says as he leans forward as if to emphasise his point.
Bugingo is such a fast speaker that I somehow struggle to catch some of the words that tremble through his relatively high pitched voice.
Spotting a pinkish T-shirt over a pair of jeans and sneakers, Bugingo is a true definition of casual on a day [Wednesday] when many people suit up for work or to run errands around town.
Inside a brightly lit office smarting with a relatively old coat of cream paint at the National Theatre, Bugingo takes me on a journey that started 13 years ago.
“I have never looked or applied for a job,” he says with a vague smile revealing a well lined set of teeth, before adding, “It was by coincidence that I joined the arts industry. I had wanted to do law [degree] but I ended up doing arts after enrolling for a bachelor’s degree in Music, Dance and Drama at Makerere University,” he says.
As luck would have it, it is at the department of Music Dance and Drama, “which by the way many including myself, considered unserious,” Bugingo would meet Phillip Lusatwa, renowned artiste who changed his fortunes for the better.
“The head of department then, Justinian Tamusuza, told me to link up with Phillip [Lusatwa]. It is this man [Phillip Lusatwa] I owe my success in this hard-to-understand industry because he showed me that I would make money out of anything not matter what,” he says.
At campus, Bugingo and a group others trained with Lusatwa with focus on comedy “even as we did not know how to go about it”.
“We acted but things were not working well. We thought about many things but settled for skit comedy [that lasts between two and five], which paved the way for a new chapter on Uganda’s comedy scene,” he says.
Like any investment, he says, the start was never easy as few people, majority of whom were complimentary ticket holders, would turn up for the shows that where then hosted at PTC Club on Lumumba Avenue before shifting to National Theatre.
However, in the early 2000s things started to look a little better when Theater Factory, under the leadership of Luswata gave him an acting role.
“The crowds begun to form every time we had a performance. I think we had finally hit the magic bullet. The line of skit comedy that we had taken on was beginning to work,” he says, adding, “I was beginning to smell money and getting more energised.”
Things went on quite well and introduced Bugingo to a new world of opportunities until 2009 when a major disagreement struck at the core of Theatre Factory, forcing a sizeable chunk of performers to split to form Fun Factory, which Bugigo remains part of to date.
The split, according to Bugingo, was inevitable yet painful given that “I was leaving a group [Theater Factory] that had nurtured me out of the diaper days”.
This was one of Bugingo’s hardest choices and one that introduced him to a new chapter of, together with other former Theatre Factory members, establishing Fun Factory that ironically would perform a stone-throw away – at Pan World - from National Theatre, where Theatre Factory would stage its shows moreover on the same day – Thursday.
“I have never thought of working out of the industry. Everything l do, lies within drama, I do marketing, serve as a master of ceremony, director and I write skits. But even when I have had formal jobs I have always come here [National Theatre] to act and perform,” he says.
Between there, Bugingo has held a number of jobs including one as a creative strategist at Metropolitan Republic, a South Africa PR and advertising agency and as a managing partner at Kib Marketing and Advertising.
He has also previously served as a managing director at Fun Factory, a company he helped to found.
Such is how Bugingo has survived with no known experience of how searching for a job feels.
“The world has become so tough, oyina okweyiya [you have to have a tough skin]. Use everything available at your disposal. With this technology, you can record yourself and upload videos on social media to share with others what you can do. If it is good then be sure someone out there will buy,” he says.
Take on investment, employment and challenges
According to Bugingo, art needs little or no capital all. “It is your talent. You can have the money to build a theater but without talent they become useless”.
The only big investment, he says is talent, which can be supplemented with money in terms of organistion and buying equipment.
You must also be determined and patience. Otherwise nothing is easy and everything takes time,” he says.
The job market has become a little hard. Every sector has no jobs. The only available options, according to Bugingo, is the creative industry and entrepreneurship, which still have less appeal for the young people.
“Even me, with all my experience, I can never be sure of what I will earn after I have acted. Many people have come to us seeking employment but employing them is hard because a job comes with commitment and expectations. In any case we would rather take on a talented person and pay them per performance, he says.
The 13-year journey has not been without challenges as a number of sponsors have been cutting their budgets, which stifles creative and standard performance.
The arts industry mainly depends on gate collections and sponsorship for both salaries and creative.
Apart from lack of sponsorship, you can never expect of a salary in the arts industry because it basically commission-based kind of job.
Creativity is another challenge, which if not well catered for, has the potential of being a major spoiler.