Artistes and students: we must draw boundaries

Monday August 12 2019

King Saha performs for students at their party.

King Saha performs for students at their party. The recent uproar about Winnie Nwagi’s performance at St Mary’s College has started a debate about whether artistes should perform in schools. Photo by Michael Kakumirizi 

By ESTHER OLUKA

Singer Winfrey Nakanwagi aka Winnie Nwagi was a recent subject of discussion allover social media when a video surfaced online showing her dancing erotically with students at St Mary’s College Kisubi (SMACK). This was during a musical concert held at the school on July 13.

The reaction to the video was mostly criticism towards Nwagi with many individuals attacking her for crossing boundaries while dealing with students. “Winnie Nakanwagi, why?” one of the social media online comments read. “These boys are fit to be your sons. Why are you rubbing your bum against their groins?” another social media comment read.

There were many other comments of this nature plastered on different social media platforms after the video was shared numerous times.

The social media backlash was probably the reason her management label, Swangz Avenue later came out and apologised for their artiste’s behaviour as well as mentioning that measures had been put in place to avoid a repeat of the same. Nwagi later came out and apologised too for going overboard during her entertainment session at the school.

This is not the first time the issue of artistes dancing inappropriately with students is coming up. From time to time, you will hear of stories that a particular musician or one of their dancers danced with students in a way considered inappropriate for their age during a performance at either their school or outdoor event such as concerts.

The indecent dance moves are not only between female musicians and male students (like in Nwagi’s case), but also between male artistes and female students.
A case in point, in the past few years, there has been social media uproar condemning Moses Ssali aka Bebe Cool for dancing inappropriately on stage with girls of school going age when he stages school concerts.
How do we entertain students but also be careful to respect their age and boundaries?

Why the criticism?
Dr Benon Kigozi, a senior staff member at the department of Performing Arts and Film, Makerere University, says dance is a form of entertainment, however, certain dance moves maybe considered inappropriate for a particular audience, hence attracting uproar from members of the public.
“The problem with some artistes is that they have failed to understand that they are entertaining students, some of whom are underage, an aspect that needs them to be on their best behaviour,” Dr Kigozi says, adding, “The reason artistes are getting criticised is because they are crossing boundaries by failing to behave appropriately during their performances.”
Dr Kigozi emphasises that artistes need to understand the kind of audience they are performing for and act appropriately, an idea Edwin Katamba aka MC Kats, a renowned events host agrees with.
“Know your crowd. If you are going to perform, for instance, at a school event, find an outfit that suites the event and once you get on stage to perform, do your entertainment bearing in mind that you are performing for students,” MC Kats says.

Attention to dresscode
Besides being mindful of the outfits (costumes) artistes wear while performing for students on stage, the kind of language an artiste uses to address students also matters so does the choice of songs they chose to sing during the time of entertainment.

On this same discussion, Milton Wabyona, an assistant music and dance lecturer at the department of Performing Arts and Film, Makerere University says sexually incited dance moves between artistes and students is simply unprofessional even though some individuals may argue that it is an aspect of African theatre where the entertainer is simply engaging with the audience.

“The problem is that some entertainers abuse this form of engagement not only by inciting sexually orientated dance moves with their audience but by also uttering vulgarities which sometimes may be a deliberate act to hype the crowd,” Wabyona says.

Since artistes many times tend to be older than students they are performing for in schools, Wabyona highlights that it is for this reason they ought to act more mature and professionally.

“You are the adult, therefore, act right. Try not to completely get lost in the moment because any slight mishap cause easily cause harm to your profession,” Wabyona.

Keep a distance if you must while entertaining, Wabyona emphasises.
And the schools?
In order to harmonise interactions between artistes and students during performances, some schools set rules and regulations both parties must adhere to.

In a learning institution such as Nabisunsa Girls School, Ismail Baiman, a teacher at the school, says the only performers they have given permission to entertain their girls in the previous years are from Buzz Teeniez Awards, an annual accolade ceremony that targets teenagers. And every year, the organisers of these awards visit different schools conducting activations. Nabisunsa is one of the schools they visit to hype the event.

“Every year when the organisers come to us, as a school, we give them a set of rules to follow, if they are bringing in artistes to perform at school. For example, we give them our preferred dress code, they must remain on stage during their performances and also, ensure they have finished performing by 6pm, among other set of rules,” Baiman says.

Follow the rules
In order to successfully effect these rules, Baiman says the school has an entertainment committee that monitors the artistes from the time they arrive until they leave the premises. The committee comprises of a Music, Dance and Drama teacher, a member of the disciplinary committee, a senior woman teacher and entertainment prefect.

For a school such as King’s College Budo, Patrick Bakka Male, the head teacher, says from time to time, they invite artistes to perform at the school.

“Normally, we do a thorough background check on them and if we feel they have an admirable reputation, and can add value to our students, we bring them in,” Male says.
Sometimes, the artistes and their management teams go directly to these schools requesting to perform.

“Even then, we do our background checks. And if we discover the artiste is scandalous, we turn down their request. However, there are those who persist with the demand. In response, we may tell them we are busy with extra-curricular activities or exams and they should try another term,” Male adds.

Share the blame
Although artistes take the most blame in such circumstances, Rodney Mugisha, a former student of Busoga College, Mwiri, who now serves as the public relations officer says students are partly to blame for the indecent behaviour.

“I have seen incidents where an artiste is performing and a student goes onto the stage uninvited. And while there, they start engaging the artiste with all sorts of provocative dance moves. In the end, some artistes will give in and engage the student,” Mugisha says, adding, “For this reason, students should be warned too.”

According to Mugisha, such incidents are very embarrassing and could ruin the reputation of schools.

“It is for this reason that we constantly caution our boys about getting into any inappropriate behaviour during the musician’s visit. We remind them of the boundaries they ought to keep, for example, desisting from bad touches,” he says. Overall, Mugisha emphasises that schools need to remind their students to also exercise self-control during performances.

A psychologist’s take
Charlotte Musoke, a counselling psychologist, says dealing with high school students is tough because that is a period when many are in their adolescent years.

“It is during these years that many are rowdy and easily excitable. Therefore, what do you expect from these students when you take an artiste to their school?” Musoke says, adding, “There are some stories I have heard that some students even ask artistes for love or relationships. It is worrying.”

For such reasons, Musoke emphasises that school administrations constantly need to lecture their students on how to behave appropriately in the presence of visitors.

Pornography Control Committee
Currently, there is the Pornography Control Committee (PCC), established under section 3 of the anti-pornography bill which was passed by Parliament in 2014 and inaugurated in 2017. The committee was established to prevent the use or spread of pornographic material and information.

Spefically, PCC will ensure early detection and prohibition of pornography, apprehend and prosecute perpetrators. Also, the team will promote the rehabilitation of individuals affected by pornography. The same committee rebuked Nwagi’s behaviour after the video of her erotically dancing with boys from St Mary’s College Kisubi surfaced.

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