Have you heard of conmen saying, ‘a stick has disappeared into your body so you must pay this much so for it to be removed’? They are using conjuring but in a perverted way.
They make you think that the stick is in your body but it has just disappeared because of the equipment they use. You will not suffer anything even if you do not give them the money.
Pinella-Di-Ricardo and Zazu of the Richard III Magic Act Troupe are actually conjurors. The duo performs tricks that are seemingly magical, using hands but without spells.
When I met these conjurors or rather magicians, like we prefer to call them, I had fears that I was going to be put under a spell!
But the first instruction I got from the two was, “This is an effect that happens there and then. Be very attentive or you will miss out on how we did it.”
I rejected the seat I was given and for more than five seconds; I did not hear my heart beat.
I asked these people to make more ‘effects’ like they call them for me but we would not have enough time for the interview.
According to the Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary, conjuring is an art of entertainment in the form of magic tricks especially ones that make things appear or disappear. On the other hand, magic is described as a special power to make impossible things happen by saying special words called spells by a sorcerer or magician.
“We are not sorcerers and this is not witchcraft. We just perform our tricks for fun and entertainment. We do not use any powers or spells. It is basically conjuring based on special materials that must stimulate people’s thinking to ask how we are able to do a particular trick,” says Pinella-Di-Ricardo.
Preparing for the shows
Zazu says the preparations depend on the audience they are performing for.
“When we are going to perform, we make sure that we are wiser than anyone in the audience so they will keep on wondering how we do the effect. We also make sure that the effect suits the age and thinking of the audience for which we are going to perform,” says Zazu.
Every item is performed by a particular material so we must make sure we have everything that we shall need for the show,” he adds. “We start from the simple effects then gradually go to the hard and complicated effects. People must know that every movement I make at the show is for a purpose.”
The two share that they get materials from different parts of the world.
“All over the world, there are special shops where we buy the materials that we use for magic, says Pinella.
He adds, “through training, we learn how to make some of the materials but not all of them. This means that you have to buy them from the shops so as to be able to do a variety of effects because different materials are made for different effects.”
“We came to perform to the Ugandan audiences to change their perception of thinking this is witchcraft, says Zazu.
“We want to become international magicians and very soon people will call us the great magicians. We are looking forward to having a special place and podium that suits our art. We shall have more magicians from all parts of the world performing here to boost the entertainment industry.”
The two martians are eager to prove that there is no sorcery in their production so they put up an impromptu performance to prove their point.
At the show, like they had said, one has to be very attentive. So I did my best to follow all the action. It started with Zazu holding a piece of cloth in his hand. He blew it in the air three times and it turned into a thin white and maroon stripped pipe.
He then pulled a balloon out of his pocket. He blew air into it and then pierced it with a lid of the pen. Then I saw a dove fly out of the balloon. He had a black cloth which he flew several times then it started changing colours each time he blew it. Then there was a brown paper bag that was empty when he showed it to the audience but after a minute, he was removing plastic soda bottles, handkerchiefs, sweets, pens, chocolates…
Next to perform was Pinella. He chews two serviettes then pulls out a long, straight multi-coloured string from his mouth. He then brought a magazine with different wine types. He then pulled wine bottles from the magazines.
I got to know about magic in 1987 when I had gone to Taiwan with a group of school children who had gone to perform music. Our interpreter who was Asian was performing magic tricks so I got interested.
I asked him if I could learn and he asked me to give him $100 (which was equivalent to Shs 180,000 then). At the end of the three months trip, I had learnt some tricks.
When we returned, I continued to train school children in music but did the magic as a side business. Although I had not bought any material, I learnt how to improvise.
I remember there were times when I went to schools like Buganda Road, Aga Khan, Kololo, Jack and Jill, and the least I would make was Shs800,000. I would also perform at homes on birthdays but specifically for Indians.
I also performed at the Indian Association of Uganda because the Indians love magic. I thought of taking the magic to another level. So I looked out for Zazu because I was at one of his performances so I asked him we go for further training so I went to Thailand to get more exposure and more tricks.
I have travelled to countries like Taiwan, UK and China to see how magic is done there.
People there do it for fun. The children audiences are usually better because they pay attention and usually ask how we do it but the adults keep on saying it is witchcraft and associate us to sorcerers.
Although I have children (five), I am hesitant to teach them the magic tricks because I am afraid they may refuse to study.
The making of Zazu
The 30-year-old Jimmy Katumba is married with one child. He has practised conjuring for more than 12 years.
I came to know about magic in 2004 when I was working as a volunteer at Rainbow House of Hope Uganda. There was a Chinese volunteer who showed me a video of his brother who was practising magic.
I got interested there and then because it was fun for me. The volunteer told me that I needed material and I would be able to get it soon because his brother was coming to Uganda.
I was in Senior Six then, so I asked my parents to help me top up the money I had saved so that I could buy the material. At first, they were surprised and thought I was going to practice witchcraft but when I showed them the video, they were convinced and gave me the money.
I gave Shs1m to the Chinese friend and when his brother came, he brought the materials.
I had a free two months training. After I had proved to be a good learner, we had a show at the organisation where I worked.
My trainer went back and during the vacation, I went to different schools in Kamuli District where I performed the effects. At first they were suspicious but I proved it was not magic.
I went to International School of Business and Technology for a bachelors’ in Information Technology then a certificate in software engineering and now I do graphics at Nasser Road as a personal business.
I met with Pinella who had seen one of my shows while at the NGO and told me we had to learn more effects so that we could become great magicians.
I went to China through my previous trainer for a five-months training and solicited Shs5m for more materials.
First there was a black box with a slanting caged provision. Pinella put a plastic dove in the caged area. When he lifted the box, the dove disappeared and then there were two rabbits. He then held out an empty glass, he poured liquid soda into the glass and started stirring the soda in the glass. After a few seconds, the stick which he used to stir the soda stuck in the glass as if the soda had frozen so he held the stick in the soda without the glass falling but the soda was still in liquid form. From the empty brown paper bag, Zazu removed nine wrapped gifts, sweets and handkerchiefs.