The third edition of Jumuiya ya Afrika Mashariki Utamaduni Festival (Jamafest) 2017 was concluded on Thursday.
Indeed it was a cocktail of cultures and traditions exhibited through art, dance, performance and food with colourful displays from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.
The Jamafest, an initiative of the ministry of Gender and the ministry of East African Community Affairs, seeks to promote tourism through culture as well as uplifting East Africa’s creatives industry.
According to Pius Bigirimana, the ministry of Gender permanent secretary, the festival gives Uganda an added advantage in the spheres of socioeconomic, integration and creativity.
“It provides a platform for employment, source of foreign exchange and social cultural growth,” he said at the launch of the five-day event.
The festival kicked off with a street jam last weekend featuring a beehive of activities that stretched into this week at National Theatre, Kololo Independence Grounds and Hotel Africana.
East Africa is home to a rich cultural background and indeed culture was on show throughout the festival.
“The future of East Africa lies in in our cultural displays. We can go anywhere but we shall still have to identify with our cultures and that is what brings us together,” said Jacob Oulanya, the deputy speaker of Parliament, who was the chief guest at the Wednesday festivities at the National Theatre.
For Linda Wanjambe, music trainer from Zanzibar, the surprise came in different packages including the variety of performances from different cultures in Uganda and the act of kneeling.
“I was so surprised that the women in Uganda kneel down while serving food,” she said seeming to have enjoyed the surprise.
Cultural show: The five-day festival lived to its billing starting with various performances at the street jam on Kampala Road that was closed to motorists from Saturday to Sunday.
It was a fun-filled weekend and later into the week the fun was shifted to the National Theatre where various performances where staged between 7pm and 11pm every day.
Different cultures entertained guests but the highlights came from a Luo troupe from Kenya that rhythmically danced to Ramoji dance, a traditional performance that depicts courtship in the Luo culture.
For Samuel Nyariwo, Kenya’s permanent presidential music commissioner, who led the dance team, it was inspiring to have been part of the festival that for the first time introduced him to an exciting form of dancing from Buganda culture.
“I am proud about our dances but the Kiganda dance has humbled me,” he said. Other highlights included performances from different parts of Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda, among others.
Mark Ndolo from Tanzania was also thrilled by the Kiganda dance that he said he would watch over and over.
“You can even skip a meal to make sure you watch every piece of this dance,” he said.
A Tanzanian troupe performed the ‘Ngazura dance’ that featured men dancing around girls in a protective manner.
Cultural fashion: At Kololo Independence Grounds it was a show of cultural fashion dominated by kitenge, gomesi and African craft sandals and bangles.
William Mwita, one of the leaders in the Tanzanian camp said the blend of colours in the different clothes and artefacts was a beautiful display.
“You have a variety to pick from. I failed to choose an art piece because most of the ones I saw looked beautiful,” he said.
Also on display were paintings, moldings and wood carvings.
Grace Kigongo, a student at Kampala International University, bought a pair of hand-woven sandals from Rwanda at Shs29,000.
“There is a lot on display and I feel like coming back for more,” she said.
However, the turn up was not as it had been expected, which for people such as Sudais Gongtek, a painter from South Sudan was a missed opportunity because he had intended to showcase his merchandise to a sizeable audience.
“Although we have sold less, I appreciate the opportunity. I am glad this has given us good exposure that gives us an opportunity to market our products,” Gongtek said.
Exhibitors and tourists from across East Africa appreciated different features in Uganda that stood out for them.
As other celebrated about the weather, others got very minor details with which they identified.
Food was also in plenty and it came in diverse varieties. Local dishes dominated much of the festival sites but the pick of the day was the rolex, a popular delicacy that has become one of the features that currently define Uganda.
Different people from across East Africa, for the first time had a taste of the revered rolex, a roll that is made of chapatti, eggs and different vegetables.
For Caleb Nuwawo from Burundi he had a totally different experience after tasting groundnuts sauce mixed with greens (gobe).
“It is nice sauce. I think this is the reason most Ugandans are healthy. There is so much to eat here [Uganda],” he said.